Brett Lernout’s Progression Leaps Forward
It took Brett Lernout until his 18-year-old season to finally breakout at the WHL level. That 2013-2014 breakout campaign led to Lernout having his name called 73rd overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
This past season, Lernout took another gigantic leap forward. The 6’04” defender nearly doubled his totals posted year previous, with 14 goals and 42 points in 72 games. Furthermore, he reached a multitude of milestones, including his first WHL hat trick, 20 career WHL goals, and 50 career WHL points.
Perhaps more enticing than Lernout’s milestones was the way that he performed game in and game out. CHLStats.com estimates that Lernout was among the WHL’s leaders in TOI/GP, averaging the third most in the entire WHL. His Swift Current defender leading 42 points was among the best totals a Broncos defender has totaled under head coach Mark Lamb. Even more surprising was that Lernout supplanted Dillon Heatherington as the team’s number one defender.
|**Statistics courtesy of CHLStats.com**
|Rank on Team (Rank on Team Defenders)
This notable progression came without any major developments in teams of physical tools. His progression can be attributed to a couple of areas: Improved confidence and increased ice time. Lernout, who was a sparingly used powerplay option last season, spent many games on the first unit. He thrived on the first powerplay unit, utilizing his hard shot (with a surprisingly quick release) to rack up seven goals on the man-advantage. As his ice time increased, Lernout arose to the occasion and succeeded in every role. Defensively, he became more patient off the rush, yet more assertive down low. Discipline was an issue in the past, but this year he decreased his penalty minutes by 34%.
Work is not done yet for Lernout, as he certainly could stand to improve in all areas. Although he’s a quality skater for his size (with surprisingly good lateral movement), he needs to improve his acceleration. Furthermore, Lernout’s passing skills remain average, which is particularly frustrating for a player who logged as many minutes as he did. For a player with limited offensive upside, a more composed, precise defensive game would be very welcome.
Next season, Lernout is eligible to play in the AHL/NHL and the WHL. Although an overage season is open considered a death sentence (which is a flawed argument), it may be viable option for Lernout who only has three full seasons of WHL experience. However, the defender appears slated to make the leap to professional hockey. In Lernout’s six-game AHL stint, he looked quite solid.
Regardless of where Lernout plays, another season of progression is expected. He certainly has some quality tools at his disposal, such as skating, size, and a great shot, but he still has much refining to do.
Note: I highly recommend checking out CHLStats.com. It’s important to keep in mind that many of the statistics are estimates, so I would advise to focus on the placement relative to the team/league, not the number itself.