Golden Knights forward Paul Cotter has often spoken glowingly of his idol Sidney Crosby and of the poster he had of the Penguins legend on the wall of his bedroom growing up.
His young teammate Brendan Brisson can do him one better when it comes to his admiration of Crosby and his teammate Evgeni Malkin.
“I had everything,” Brisson said late Saturday. “Fatheads, sticks, all of it. They’re definitely my two idols growing up.”
Brisson scored the first goal of his NHL career against Pittsburgh on Saturday night, and it proved to be the game-winner for the Knights.
The Knights (27-14-5) are 3-0 since recalling him from their American Hockey League affiliate in Henderson, but all three games have been at home. Brisson and the Knights will now hit the road for a four-game road trip leading up to the All-Star break, beginning Monday at New Jersey (23-18-3).
Brisson will look to build on the confidence of his first goal, which came while Crosby and Malkin were on the ice. Crosby slapped the puck at the boards after it bounced off the net and back onto the ice.
It’s the kind of script that could come straight out of Hollywood, which is fitting for the son of an industry power broker who grew up in Manhattan Beach.
“The storyline is crazy,” Brisson said. “Someone told me when I got back to the bench (that they were on the ice). It was special. He was growing up at my house before he was drafted, him and Malkin. For me to be able to play against them, much less score my first NHL goal, was pretty special.”
Brisson, the 2020 first-round pick of the Knights, is the son of Pat Brisson, one of the most powerful agents in the hockey world, so the aspiring young hockey player was around some of the biggest stars in the game as he developed his skills.
Crosby and Malkin were among his favorites.
“Before he was drafted, I was probably 4 and my brother was 2,” Brisson recalled after the game. “He fell and had to get stitches in his eyebrow. So my parents rushed him to the hospital, and they came home and Sid was giving me a bath in the sink. I have a lot of stories with those guys.”
Brisson also had a connection with Malkin, whom he referred to as “The Shark.”
“When he came to Los Angeles for a summer, he was in the pool at the hotel and he was acting like a shark and chasing me and my brother around,” Brisson laughed. “It was special to play against those guys. Maybe during warmups I was looking over at them a little bit, but it was awesome to get my first NHL goal against them.”
Brisson’s ability to put the puck in the net has never been in question. It’s what made him a first-round pick coming out of Michigan in 2020. What the organization has been waiting on is for the rest of his game to catch up.
Coach Bruce Cassidy has credited Brisson for the strides he has made in wall battles and his movement away from the puck, and teammate Chandler Stephenson said Brisson’s game will only take off now that the first goal is out of the way,
“You see the excitement and the smile,” Stephenson said. “The fans being loud for him is awesome. It’s something you dream of and to get it out of the way was big for me, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts playing even better now. He’s been very good, but he’ll probably have more confidence now.”
Brisson knows the goals will come. His focus now is doing all the little things right to stay in the lineup.
“I try to go out there and do the best I can to help the team win, and it’s great we’ve won all three since I’ve been here,” he said. “I’m grateful for it and trying to get better every day.”
He’s not alone. Several of his Silver Knights teammates are up with the big club right now because there are so many players out with injuries. Brisson credited the organization for keeping everyone ready to step in right away and do their job.
“They do a great job developing us and they want us to help them win games, and that’s all we’re trying to do,” he said. “We’re not trying to come up and fill Jack Eichel’s shoes, it’s impossible. So just be the best versions of ourselves and be reliable in all three zones. It’s been great.”