But even with tips and support from NHL superstars, Brisson was a late bloomer. Thanks to a long-awaited surge in growth and confidence, his game came together in the 2018-19 season when he led Shattuck-St. Mary’s U18 team with 101 points in 55 games. This was the cornerstone of his being selected in the first round by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 NHL draft two weeks before his 19th birthday.
“He was just an average player when we first played in Cali,” said York, who played Brisson in his youth. “He has come this far in such a short time.”
Two other Californians are also on this year’s US squad – defenseman Ryan Johnson, selected in the first round of the Buffalo Sabers in 2019, and goalkeeper Dustin Wolf, a selection from the Calgary Flames 2019.
The current generation has benefited tremendously from top-notch NHL players who have stayed in California when they retired. At the Junior Ducks, York and Johnson were coached by Johnson’s father, Craig, who played in the NHL for 10 years, and Hall of Fame defender and three-time cup winner Scott Niedermayer.
At the Junior Kings, Brisson and Wolf were coached by the current general manager of the Los Angeles Kings, Rob Blake, also a Hall of Famer and Cup champion, and their current director of player staff, Nelson Emerson, a veteran of 771 NHL games.
After a disappointing debut among the world’s juniors in 2020, when Team USA were knocked out by Finland in the quarter-finals, York has shone this time around. He was second in the standings among defenders with six points in five games in the semi-finals against Finland. Brisson has two goals in five games.
“We all grow up with this tournament,” said Brisson. “As a little kid, you follow all these individual players. Now, I’m one of those single players a kid looks up to. It could be in Iowa, it could be in Chicago – it could be in the US or even North America. It’s much bigger than a tournament. “