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Brinson Pasichnuk on Struggle with OCD, Training with McDavid & Matthews



Source: San Jose Barracuda

Brinson Pasichnuk struggled with depression for nine years before making the life-changing decision to seek help.

“I was just getting really down and getting some really bad thoughts going through my brain,” Pasichnuk told San Jose Hockey Now Monday afternoon.

Pasichnuk said a conversation with his wife, Halle, was the turning point: “She was like ‘Brinson, let’s talk to someone about it, because what’s the worst that can happen? I know it can be scary going to talk to someone. But if they can help you, why wouldn’t you want that?’”

“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Pasichnuk said. “It made me realize I’m not the only one that goes through stuff like this, even though it can feel like that sometimes.”

Pasichnuk, 23, was diagnosed with anxiety and Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

“It was honestly relieving to know that there’s actually something chemically wrong in my brain, that it’s not just me,” Pasichnuk said.

OCD manifests in different ways for different people, in recurrent unwanted thoughts or sensations (obsessions) or the urge to repeat an activity (compulsions). For Pasichnuk, it is intrusive thoughts of guilt.

“It can be a range of things, but they’ll come in my brain, I’ll start to feel guilty and they just go in a loop … and I’m just constantly thinking about it and obsessing over it,” Pasichnuk said. “The compulsive aspect of it is I have to talk to someone about it in order for that guilt to kind of leave.”

Pasichnuk’s journey with his mental illness is an ongoing battle, but he says he’s getting better everyday— thanks to his faith, his ability to confide in close friends, and professional help.

“We all have stuff going on, we all aren’t perfect, and we all have issues,” Pasichnuk said. “I think people who battle with anxiety and depression struggle to realize that. They think they’re in it alone. They’ll think, ‘Why is this person so happy when I’m sitting here in my room, crying myself to sleep?’ But what we don’t see is what everyone else goes through behind closed doors.”

From Sun Devil to Shark

Pasichnuk was a key part of building the new NCAA Division I program at Arizona State. The Bonnyville, Alberta native was team captain for his final two years and his 107 career points puts him at second all-time in the school’s five-year program history.

After a year of deliberating, Pasichuk signed a two-year deal with the San Jose Sharks Mar. 31, 2020. He had attended San Jose’s 2019 prospect development camp, and the Sharks were the first NHL team to extend him an offer.

Having his older brother, Steenn, also join the Sharks system was the cherry on top. Steenn, 26, signed with the Barracuda Jun. 26, 2020. The Pasichnuks had been teammates since playing junior hockey for their hometown team, the Bonnyville Pontiacs, and through their four years at Arizona State.

“It’s a dream come true to say the least,” Pasichnuk said. “I just feel blessed for it, because I never would have dreamed of this happening.”

Pasichnuk, 23, has four assists in 19 games with the Barracuda. Source: Bakersfield Condors

Training with the Stars

In the offseason, Pasichnuk trained for two months in Arizona with a roster of experienced NHL players, headlined by Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews. The practices were run by retired 21-year NHL veteran Shane Doan.

Pasichnuk described it as “one of the world’s best summer skates.” Brinson, along with teammates Nikolai Knyzhov, Maxim Letunov, and Steenn, were invited by Matthews. The Toronto Maple Leafs star was familiar with the Pasichnuks after skating with the Arizona State team.

The practices helped Pasichnuk wrap his mind around the speed and skill of players he’d soon be facing.

“There’s definitely a few moments that make you look like it’s your first time playing hockey,” Pasichnuk said of defending McDavid and Matthews. “But then you realize, those two are doing it to everyone. So it makes you feel a little bit better.”

Pasichnuk impressed at the San Jose Sharks preseason training camp, earning one of the two defenseman spots on the taxi squad to start the season. He was sent down to the Barracuda for the beginning of the AHL season, and has since only missed one game.

“I think this guy’s ahead of schedule now because he hasn’t stopped playing,” assistant general manager Tim Burke said.

Pasichnuk has earned four assists in 19 games, mostly playing on the left side of Nicolas Meloche. He’s recently been on the second power play unit, with Letunov, Sasha Chmelevski, Ivan Chekhovich, and Robbie Russo.

“Coming from wearing a full face mask and playing unconditional minutes at a slower pace, now he’s playing lesser minutes at a faster pace, he’s still in a little bit of adjustment,” Burke said. “But we’ve liked the progress he’s making.”

“That was a big adjustment at the start of the year,” Pasichnuk said. “Just taking advantage of the minutes you get…it was just being ready to go every night, whenever you’re called upon.”

Head coach Roy Sommer described the six-foot Pasichnuk as a reliable puck-mover with offensive capabilities who can still play with a physical edge.

Pasichnuk said he tries to be one of the last players to leave the ice everyday at practice, preparing for the minutes he gets and the inevitable mistakes he will make.

“Hockey’s a game of mistakes,” Pasichnuk said. “I make them all the time…but as long as I’m working hard, I can learn from them.”

Getting better everyday is Pasichnuk’s goal—both on and off the ice, both physically and mentally. But he knows one is more important than the other.

“One of the most important values I have in life is just being a good human being, not just being a good athlete,” Pasichnuk said. “Being a great human being is so much more than sports. If you have a locker room full of people who truly care about each other and are willing to put others before themselves, it’s amazing what people can accomplish. I just pride myself on truly caring for others.”

Cuda lose in shootout

The Barracuda (7-7-4-2) let a late one-goal lead slip away to the AHL’s No.1 team, the Henderson Silver Knights (18-4-0-0), in a 2-1 shootout loss Tuesday night.

Rookie goaltender Alexei Melnichuk (2-4-3) made 25 saves in his first start since Mar. 30, when he had to exit the game after two periods due to a lower-body injury. Forward Scott Reedy from the University of Minnesota made his AHL debut just four days after signing a two-year deal with the San Jose Sharks.

Jake McGrew opened the scoring in the second period, breaking a nine-game pointless drought. Fellow rookie forward Brandon Coe and defenseman Jake Middleton assisted on the play, earning Coe his first professional point in his third AHL game.

The 1-0 lead held until late in the third period, but like their loss Apr. 3, the Barracuda ran into penalty trouble. Robbie Russo took a delay of game penalty and Henderson scored just 10 seconds into the power play.

A high hit to Alexander True forced him to exit the game in the final two minutes of the third period. Lean Bergmann nearly started a line brawl attempting to fight the offender, Jake Leschyshyn, but ended up with an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. This left San Jose without three forwards, as Stefan Noesen had also received a misconduct penalty for instigating a fight earlier in the third period.

The game went to a shootout, with Reedy and Ivan Chekhovich scoring, but Henderson scored in the fifth round for the 2-1 win. The Barracuda are now 0-6 when the game goes past 60 minutes.

San Jose hosts Henderson again Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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