Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times
Brockville Braves coach Jesse Winchester complimented forward Joshua Spratt’s growth this off-season a few times over the summer. With the team’s camp having opened Monday, it didn’t take long for Spratt to prove his coach right.
The camp is consisting of players from the Jr. A Braves, Jr. B Tikis, and U18 Braves spread out across four teams that play headto-head games against each other. Less than a minute into the first game of the camp and on the very first shift, Spratt hit an opponent and then skated up the ice for a goal with Mathieu Halle. It’s an encouraging sign considering the pair picked up some chemistry together by the end of last year.
It’s a nice start as to what might be coming from Spratt this season. Everything he was able to accomplish last year makes him an exciting part of the team this year.
There’s always a lot of questions surrounding a team coming into camp and the most intriguing thing about the Braves this time around could very well be, how much more potential does Spratt have? “I got my first year under the belt and the second year is all about getting a bigger role and improving on everything I did last year,” said Spratt.
The Gananoque-born centre proved to be a small-player-biggame type in his rookie season. He’s only 5-foot-8, but packs a big punch. He’s aggressive, he’ll hit when he needs to, and he’ll bother opponents between whistles.
Now that’s what a good fourthline role player is expected to do.
Spratt, though, is also a very strong skater, isn’t afraid to crash the net, and contributes defensively. It’s those aspects why he’s likely to see more ice time this year.
His seven goals and seven assists last year aren’t exactly indicative to what the spark-plug provided to the team.
Spratt got better and better every month during the 2017-18 season and he credits a big part of that to doing skill-specific training with Winchester at the Braves Academy, which he’s doing again this year. Spratt talks about the Academy like he’s trying out to be a spokesperson of it, but to be fair the biggest endorsement might be his play in general as he’s gotten smarter and looked more confident every game.
The now 17-year-old was smaller than almost everyone else last year and typically younger too – and will still be this season as well – but he didn’t look out of place by the midway point of the season.
“I progressed pretty well last year. I’m looking forward to this year having practices with (Winchester), the Academy, everything. I’m looking forward to growing a lot more and improving a lot more.”
In a lot of ways, Spratt is a different kind of player. His mindset isn’t exactly like other mindsets. He genuinely doesn’t seem to mind where he’s penciled into the lineup as long as he’s in it. Spratt, along with Fred Allaire, helped blur the lines last year between the top and bottom lines. While most coaches like to spout that they like to roll out four lines, Winchester was actually doing it last year and it was because of the increasing skill of Allaire and Spratt, and then eventually Halle.
Most guys are itching to get on the power play where they can collect some extra points. Spratt, though, is happy to be on the ice when his team is down a man and his style fits the penalty kill to aT with the way he’s willing to block shots, quickly chase pucks on the blue line and along the boards, and the work ethic he has to hold the puck in deep to take a few extra seconds off the clock.
With the CCHL implementing new technology to games that will record about 130 different statistics from blocked shots to Corsi rating, the added numbers could prove to be a huge benefit to someone like Spratt who focuses on other parts of the game than just goals and assists.
“(Winchester) said I was going to get a bigger role penalty killing, which I look forward to doing. Just in general, be a bit of a leader this year in the locker room and on the ice,” said Spratt. “You try to set goals and I think being a leader on-andoff the ice and being a leader on the team is a pretty important thing. The responsibility of keeping everyone accountable is pretty important to having a good team.”