June 19, 2014
The Swift Current Broncos have no shortage of highly regarded draft eligible blueliners this year. Potential first-rounders Julius Honka and Brycen Martin have captured most of the spotlight, but Brett Lernout has slowly but surely made a name for himself as a shutdown defenceman.
Lernout came into this season relatively unknown. He initally gained traction in 2012-13 after the Memorial Cup-hosting Saskatoon Blades traded him to the Broncos. The deal led to the Winnipeg native earning increased ice time on a younger Swift Current club.
"I wasn't playing much at all (in Saskatoon), so I was happy about the trade," says Lernout, who was nine days too young to be eligible for the 2013 draft. "I saw opportunity in Swift Current and thought it would be good to play a bigger role."
Fast-forwarding to this year, Lernout earned a spot in the Broncos’ top four and a role on the penalty kill.
Lernout garnered the attention of scouts with his steady defensive play, rugged style and imposing 6-foot-4, 204-pound statue. Moreover, he showed consistent improvements in his game throughout the year. It showed in his draft status as he jumped up to No. 52 among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting Service’s final ranking. He was No. 80 at the midterm.
“At the beginning of the season I wouldn't have expected to get much notice, but I think I've earned it as the season has went on,” says Lernout, who scored eight goals and 22 points in 72 games while racking up 103 penalty minutes. “I've worked hard to take steps forward and I think I've made big steps forward with my defensive game and stuff like making the first pass to get out of the defensive zone.”
The 18-year-old Lernout hopes to follow the footsteps of fellow teammate and Columbus Blue Jackeets second-rounder Dillon Heatherington. He admires how Heatherington conducts himself on and off the ice.
"Dillon is a great leader and someone I've watched to try to be like," Lernout says. "He works really hard and is a good guy to have in the room. It’s good to watch how hard he works and the little things he does to get to see what it takes to get to that level."
1. How would you describe yourself as a defenceman? And do you model your game after an NHL player?
"I try to be a shutdown defenceman. Someone who plays hard in his own zone and other players don’t like to play against. I think Chris Pronger has been my biggest role model. He's tough to play against and was just a dominant player out there."
2. Who’s your favourite NHL team?
"I don’t really have a favourite team, but being from Winnipeg, I'd have to go with the Jets."
3. What’s it like going from living in Winnipeg to the smallest city in the WHL, Swift Current?
“It has been an adjustment, but I like living in a smaller community. The people are nice and it's a nice place to play hockey.”
4. If you weren’t pursuing a career in hockey, what sport would you take seriously?
"I'd probably be involved in volleyball. I was involved in it before playing in the WHL."
5. What are your summer plans?
"I'm working at a local golf course. It's a nice summer job. And I'm working out as much as I can to stay in good shape."
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen