Photo credit: Cherie Morgan
By Scott Onyschak
Penticton Vees forward and recently named BCHL Most Valuable Player, Bradly Nadeau, has dominated the league for the better part of two years now. Him and his older brother Josh joined the Vees at the start of the 2021-22 season and helped the team to a championship in their first year with the organization. They also have their team back in the finals for a second year in a row.
Both Bradly and Josh saw a massive improvement in their game from year one to two. Playing the entire regular season as a 17-year-old, Bradly led the league in points with 113, the most by any BCHL player since 2015-16. Josh wasn’t far behind scoring 110.
For Bradly, his play the past two seasons has him ranked as the top BCHL prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. He is listed as the 17th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and has a chance to be selected in the first round.
The Nadeau brothers are from St-François-de-Madawaska, N.B. and grew up watching their dad play senior hockey. Both Bradly and Josh credit their passion for the sport to their father, John.
“Ever since I first watched my dad play, I always wanted to do what he was doing,” said Bradly. “I just fell in love with the game.”
John Nadeau played in his local senior league for 30 years. When Josh was in Peewee, John finally won a league championship after over 20 seasons.
“He played hockey his whole life and wanted to win the trophy so badly in that league,” said Josh. “When he finally won it, we went on the ice and celebrated with him. That is my favourite memory with my dad.”
For years, the Nadeau brothers watched their father compete at a high level year in and year out. Now, it’s John watching his sons excel at a high level instead.
Once Bradly was old enough to play junior, the brothers chose to move across Canada because of the opportunity the BCHL provided them.
“I wanted to start my junior career in a really good program and thought the BCHL would be the best bet,” said Bradly. “When Penticton reached out, I had already heard so many good things about the organization, I couldn’t refuse.”
The decision couldn’t have worked out much better for the Nadeaus. They are four wins shy of their second championship in as many years and have grown immensely as players and people.
Bradly acknowledged the significant impact the Vees coaching staff has had on his development on and off the ice, specifically head coach and general manager, Fred Harbinson
“Fred has helped me a lot, improving my game defensively,” said Bradly. “When I first got here last year, that’s something I really worked on, and Fred was a big part.”
He also mentioned assistant coach Steve Cawley and former assistant, now head coach of the Coquitlam Express, Patrick Sexton made a huge impact on him as a player and a person.
While it may look easy for the dynamic duo when they are finding each other for goals night after night, a massive reason the Nadeau brothers have been so dominant this year is the work they put in throughout the offseason.
“We worked all summer to come back here and win another championship, especially working on our details in practice,” said Josh. “We always try to make all the little details right. I think that’s a big reason for our personal and team success.”
Harbinson noted their hard work in the offseason as well.
“He took it upon himself to go above and beyond in his training in the summer,” Harbinson said of Bradly. “We track fitness testing and, from first year to second year, he had the biggest jump of any returner.”
It’s clear their work in the summer has translated into success on the ice, but that’s only half the battle. Another important aspect is mental.
“In your second year, you have more confidence,” said Bradly. “It helps not being a 16-year-old and the youngest one on the team. Finishing last season on a high note in the playoffs really helped my confidence going into this season and throughout the year.”
Both last year and this, the playoffs have been where Bradly and Josh have played their best hockey. Last year, the brothers combined for 48 points, 24 each, in 17 games to finish second and third in playoff scoring. Through 13 games this postseason, they have combined for 58 points and sit one and two on the scoring list.
Harbinson, who is putting the finishing touches on his 16th season in the league, understands better than most that skill alone won’t win you games. You need to have the drive and work ethic as well.
“[Bradly] plays with such a high energy to him,” he said. “For me, my favourite players I’ve coached are the ones that never quit. The skill is great, and you need guys that can score, but the thing I like about Bradly is he’s got the compete and the skill.”
“When your top scorers can be your hardest workers, it’s pretty easy for everyone else to fall into place. If Bradly or Josh are going to work as hard as they do, how can the guy further down the lineup complain? It makes my job easy as a coach.”
It’s been a quick two years for the Nadeau brother in the BCHL, but they have certainly made their mark on the Vees organization and the league as a whole in a short amount of time.
It wasn’t until their first season in Penticton that they were able to play organized hockey together, but there will plenty more down the road. This fall, they will be heading back east and attending the University of Maine, which is pretty close to their New Brunswick home.
Despite their two-year age gap, they spent countless hours playing together on their outdoor rink growing up.
“We got to know each other’s play style and that’s made a difference for us now,” said Josh.
Bradly noted this as well, saying sometimes he just knows where Josh will be on the ice.
“Being able to play with a player like [Josh] with such good hockey IQ and skills has helped my game a lot,” he said.
It may seem like the BCHL was just the beginning of the Nadeau brothers dominating hockey together, but it goes much further back and hopefully further into the future as well.