By Warren Kozireski —
Offensive defensemen are becoming more and more of a commodity in the modern National Hockey League and the Buffalo Sabres have stockpiled several including 2017 fourth round draft pick Jacob Bryson, a junior with the Providence College Friars.
Despite a recent offensive dry spell, the 5’9”, 185 lb. led all Friar blueliners with three goals and 11 assists through the first 21 games this season and was +11.
“I need to grow as a player, develop as a leader and get harder on these guys and speak up more in the dressing room,” Bryson said in late-December. “They (the Sabres) have a bunch of other “D” so it’s going to be tough, but they have good coaching.”
A 2017-18 Second Team All-American after registering a 25 point campaign, he wore an “A” as a sophomore and now one of three captains for Providence this season.
“A little (surprised at being selected); being a junior I didn’t expect it, but at the same time we have a bunch of leaders on our team.”
“I usually give a junior an “A” expecting them to be a captain as a senior,” Providence head coach Nate Leaman said. “We debated all summer who should become the “C”. Jacob’s play speaks for itself…and any one of them could wear a “C” on any team I’ve ever coached.”
Bryson is the rare Canadian (London, Ontario) who decided to play junior hockey in the USHL after playing prep hockey in the U.S.
“I never got drafted in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League) and then I went to prep school and I kind of just fell in love with it from there and it kind of just took off,” Bryson said. “I went to Omaha and was recruited out of prep school and I ended up at Providence.
“I’ve loved every step of the way because Omaha was awesome and Providence has been such a great ride. I guess I developed more as I got older and I wasn’t the best player at a young age. It’s tough being away from your parents, but it’s nice to be different from those other guys who played in the OHL.”
Not only is Bryson serving a veteran role with Providence, he now is an experienced NHL training camp attendee after his second this past summer with the Sabres.
“It was good. Buffalo is a nice city to go to get a week down there developing and their staff does an amazing job at keeping in touch with their players. At camp we worked on little things and I think every player there got better. It was nice to meet other players and meet new friends.”
Those development camps came after he was selected by Buffalo in 2017, something he saw on television back home.
“It was amazing to see my name and it kind of surprised me because I was looking more toward the end of the draft. And I’m so excited for where I landed. My whole family was watching it kind of casually and then it popped up…so it was a great day.”
Size has been an issue throughout his hockey career, but Bryson is thankful and hopeful that the recent NHL trend toward speed and mobility will allow him the opportunity other defensemen from past decades did not have.
“Being a small guy I try to play physical because that is also a big part of the game, but it’s moving more toward more offensive, smaller guys that can play so it’s kind of a good fit.”