A year ago, many Flyers fans probably wouldn’t have predicted Bobby Brink would become such a highly-touted prospect in the club’s pipeline. Selected in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, there was obvious excitement about what Brink could potentially bring to the table, but in the last calendar year, the diminutive, 5-foot-8 winger has more than surpassed the expectations of even his most loyal believers.
No. 2: Bobby Brink
2021-22 League/Team: University of Denver (NCAA), Philadelphia Flyers (NHL)
2021-22 Statistics: 14 G, 43 A, 57 P in 41 GP (NCAA), 0 G, 4 A, 4 P in 10 GP (NHL)
Acquired: Drafted No. 34 overall (2019)
How did Brink’s 2021-22 hockey season go? Is his stock trending up or down from where it was entering the year?
Brink’s 2021-22 season was nothing short of a smashing success. After logging just 11 points in 15 games at the University of Denver in his COVID-19-shortened sophomore season, the 21-year-old led the nation in points (57) and assists (43) as a junior and helped guide the Pioneers to victory in the national championship against Minnesota State. He was also named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the NCAA’s top men’s hockey player.
Following his outstanding collegiate campaign, the Flyers wasted no time signing Brink to an entry-level contract — he inked his three-year deal not even a full 24 hours after winning the national championship. Brink only appeared in 10 games for the Flyers, but did manage to show some encouraging flashes. When it was all said and done, Brink logged four points — all assists — in his brief stint as an NHLer.
What are we expecting from Brink this season? What should we be looking for from him?
As solid as Brink’s 2021-22 season was, Flyers fans probably shouldn’t expect to see much from him this season — at least at the NHL level. As has been the case for many Flyers regulars and prospects as of late, Brink has fallen victim to the injury bug. In July, the Flyers announced Brink underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He is expected to be out of commission until December, at the earliest.
Had Brink made it through the summer unscathed, there was a real possibility he could have made the Flyers’ opening-night roster out of training camp. But given the timing and severity of his injury, it won’t be surprising if Brink spends most — if not all — of his season playing for the Phantoms in Lehigh Valley.
How does Brink fit into the Flyers’ long-term plans? Where does he stand in the Flyers’ organizational depth?
Even with his unfortunate injury taken into account, Brink remains a key piece in the Flyers’ prospect pool. And aside from 2022 first-round selection Cutter Gauthier, one could argue Brink may even be the top forward prospect in the pipeline.
Brink is far from a perfect hockey player — while he’s able to get from point A to point B well enough, his awkward skating stride has been well-documented, and his size likely won’t do him many favors at the NHL level. Still, Brink offers enough offensively that even with the flaws in his game, he can realistically develop into a quality player thanks to his high hockey IQ and strong passing capabilities.
What do we think Brink’s ultimate NHL upside is, and how likely is it that he gets to something approaching that?
It’s not outside the realm of possibility that a healthy Brink could become a serviceable top-six winger one day. He will likely need more time to develop in the AHL, especially after missing so much time recovering from hip surgery, but his ceiling seems quite high.
January will be a big month for Brink. At that point, he should (!) be at full health and playing significant minutes in Lehigh Valley — perhaps even with the Flyers, though the probability of that doesn’t seem nearly as high.
Brink is likely still a few years away from reaching his full potential, but given what he’s displayed over the last year, it’s hard not to be excited about the possibilities.