The poke me and die picture returns!
Born: March 25, 1994
If you happen to know a bookie who gives odds on “Future NHL Captains drafted in 2012” your smart money is on Brendan Gaunce of the Belleville Bulls to be the first player from this class to don a ‘C’. He hits every note you’re looking for.
Big. (Check) Strong. (Check) Center. (Check) Polished. (Check)
It’s odd to see this unanimous type of praise heaped on the shoulders of a 18 year old kid. Quite frankly, most 18 year old kids are small(er), scrawny and have plenty of other cringeworthy tendencies. But Gaunce has established himself as a player with top notch character and his play has earned him plenty of big name comparisons along the way.
“He gets a lot of comparisons to Jordan Staal, big center, very emotionally and physically mature,” said Neate Sager, editor of Yahoo!’s Buzzing the Net. “He’s a really well spoken guy. He’s a pretty creative player, he just reads the ice very well.”
There is plenty of talk in NHL circles that Gaunce is the prototype center teams would like to build around. For a player who doesn’t jump out at you with his overwhelming skill or bruising play, he is a coveted asset that teams would love to have in their colors.
“I think it’s the combination of his size and his skill and his character. I’ve heard the same thing, that this is what teams want; they want a big center who can lead the team,” said Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News. “He has a lot of room to increase his skillset and I think a lot of teams see that.”
If and when Gaunce breaks into the NHL, it’ll be the second time for his family. Brendan’s brother Cameron was a second round pick of the Colorado Avalance in 2008 after a strong OHL career as a member of the St. Michael’s Majors and has already played a handful of games as a member of the Avs.
While Cameron is a blueliner and Brendan is a center, the brothers have, in many ways, travelled the same path. Both players played their midget hockey with the Markham Waxers. Both players wore letters with their junior clubs — Cameron captained the Majors while Brendan wore the ‘A’ in Belleville in his second season. And now both are looking forward to NHL careers.
If you think the genetic ties don’t work in his favor, think again.
“Cameron has gone through the hoops, he’s played at all levels, he’s played in the NHL and for Brendan he can see what his brother did, see his brother at a couple of OHL awards ceremonies. You can tell he’s a charismatic guy and he’s a good mentor for his brother and given him good insight on how you get to the top fairly quickly,” said Kennedy.
Being around the NHL development process has clearly paid dividends for Gaunce. He is one of the most NHL-ready prospects in the draft, even if his skill has plenty of room to grow.
“Kids get less geeked out and handle everything better. Brendan was one of the first kids we did a ‘Draft Tracker’ on and he was just so smooth and polished,” said Sager.
While Gaunce’s rankings have him all over the map, he showed off his physical tools at the NHL Combine and finished in the top-10 in several tests. His scoring has yet to catch up to his ability in the junior ranks, but his midget numbers were eye-popping and he has been a productive player offensively for Canada in international competition.
All told, Gaunce possesses plenty of offensive skill and is a point a game player for the Bulls. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever post huge offensive numbers but that shouldn’t deter anyone from drafting him. It didn’t slow down the much smaller Mike Richards, who also received similar praise.
Teams are looking at the intangibles in Gaunce and he has them in spades. Training with Gary Roberts certainly doesn’t hurt his case either.
“Right now they see a great frame to build on, a kid that’s already got some good weight to him and once you get him in the gym and put him on particular routine you’ll see what you get from there,” said Kennedy. “He’s got all the right checkmarks.”