2021-22 Season Review: Brayden Tracey Takes Positive Steps ForwardJun 1, 2022
By Andy Zilch/SanDiegoGulls.com
Brayden Tracey found his way into professional action last season after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a delayed start on his junior hockey season in the Western Hockey League. At the age of 19, Tracey skated in 12 games with the San Diego Gulls in 2020-21 but came away empty handed in the points department. He eventually returned to the Victoria Royals for his fourth and final junior season, posting nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 22 games. Tracey reinforced that he was dominant in the WHL and was anxious to carry that production to the professional level. With the ability to dip his toe in the American Hockey League waters, the forward knew what work laid ahead last offseason.
"It kind of sounds cliché, but bigger, faster, stronger," Tracey said regarding his mentality last offseason. "I think that’s the three biggest points., I mean, I came in last year, I weighed about 175 and I realized I was kind of getting pushed around out there and getting knocked off the puck real easy. Same thing this summer - just bigger, faster, stronger. I think if I can maintain that over the next few summers that can really progress my game."
Tracey immediately addressed the naysayers by collecting seven points in the first eight games of the 2021-22 season. The Calgary, Alberta native scored his first professional goal in that timeframe, hitting the milestone during just the second home game of the season. The goal came on November 5 against the Bakersfield Condors late in the second period in an eventual Gulls shootout victory. Some players can only remember small fragments from moments of that magnitude because of the adrenaline, but it was with whom he shared the moment that made it hard for Tracey to forget this achievement.
"I remember Trev (Gulls defenseman Trevor Carrick) gave me that long pass right from the dot to the base of the blueline," Tracey said. "It was a one-on-one and I slipped it under the guy’s stick and eventually put it in. My roommate, Jacob Perreault, was out there with me and (Mason) McTavish was out there, it was us three young guys out there and that was a very special moment for me."
An attendance of nearly 10,000 people added to the thrill of the goal. Tracey was known for embracing America’s Finest Fans when scoring at the Pechanga Arena and, in fact, nine of his 11 goals this season came at the friendly confines in San Diego. After a dozen of Gulls games played last season without fans, Tracey thrived as the crowds were welcomed back to cheer on the team. Most of his goals were seen in jubilation along the boards acknowledging the front row and beyond.
"The crowd, unbelievable," Tracey said. "I think for the team, we can thank them. They gave us a lot of momentum, a lot of heart and I think even when I scored, it got me going extra when the crowd got up and started cheering. That was a big part of my game and it helped me to be confident. I mean when you score and you celly to the crowd and they get into it, I mean there’s nothing better than that."
Tracey continued to plow through the early segment of the season and earned league-wide recognition in late November. He recorded 3-4=7 points in three contests and earned the AHL Player of the Week Award. This began the best string of production for Tracey last season where he amassed 7-9=16 points in 14 games played from November 24 to January 15. Because of this strong play, the Anaheim Ducks 2019 first-round selection received his first call up and dressed in his first National Hockey League game on January 9 at Honda Center. This provided another memory from last season that Tracey will never forget.
"I‘m lucky I got a game under my belt, I learned a lot," Tracey stated. "I played alongside with (Ryan) Getzlaf and (he was) nothing but the best to me. He took me under his wing the whole game. He was talking to me the whole game, he was teaching me a lot; I was learning from him. (Troy) Terry was on the other side and obviously we saw what he can do this year. I was pretty happy to be alongside with those two guys."
Some players have a challenging time finding consistency upon entering the professional level. Tracey could not sustain that high-end production in his first professional season. His numbers slipped in the final 23 regular-season games, earning just 2-3=5 points. That stretch is being used as a learning tool heading into the offseason. After all, Tracey is only one season into his career and playing in a premiere developmental league. This is the most important time to grasp the issues and apply the newfound knowledge; even if it takes looking into the mirror.
"I’m pretty hard on myself," Tracey stated. "I think I have a lot of expectations for myself and for the team. Just that little push on myself; I think I need to get rid of. I beat myself down a bit and that can pull me away from my game. If I can mentally fix that, I think it will go a long ways for me."
Tracey turned 21 years old last Saturday and has a long promising road ahead. He has already taken one major step and accomplished many achievements that rookies in this league can only dream of. For now, Tracey is back home, pushing himself to be the best he can in preparation for the 2022-23 season. He is building off the good and understanding the bad. His own personal expectations are high, as most players are, but Tracey is ready to soar for the organization and not allow mental roadblocks to get in his way.