Weight: 205-210 lbs.
Hometown: Markham, Ontario
Outside of defence, the biggest hole the Flames need to fill in their prospect pool is probably up the middle, and that's where Brendan Gaunce comes in.
Gaunce has been referred to as possibly the best two-way forward available in this year's draft and also perhaps one of the closest to being NHL-ready.
In his second year with the OHL's Belleville Bulls, Gaunce scored 28 times and accumulated 68 points in 68 games, scoring at a rate of exactly one point per game and nearly doubling his output from 2010-11. Of those 22 came on special teams, which is to say about 1/3 of his total points.
When you read more about Gaunce's abilities and skill set, it's not necessarily surprising that he scores the vast majority of his points at even strength.
From NHL Mock Draft:
While not the most creative player with the puck, Gaunce can play the power game, keeping defenders at bay while he tries to set up in the zone. He has decent vision and puck-distribution capabilities but isn’t an overtly impressive playmaker. His shot is quick, heavy and given his ability to muscle his way in close – very tough to stop.
Defensively, he’s got considerable polish for a first-year draft-eligible and seems more than capable of negating opportunities in the neutral or defensive zones with physical pressure and effective gap control and awareness.
Last Word on Sports had this to say about Gaunce's defensive game:
...His coaches in Belleville use him in all situations, including when line matching against the opponent’s best players and on the penalty kill. Gaunce uses his long reach to cut down on passing lanes and is not afraid to use his body to block shots. He has good positioning and anticipation. His size, strength and hard work also help him to win board battles in the defensive zone.
This combined with the fact that Gaunce scores the majority of his points at even strength is certainly a positive sign, but with players like him, the challenge sometimes seems to be translating their style of game to the next level while still maintaining their offensive output. Some have argued that this won't be as much of a challenge for Gaunce because he is already so mature, physically and in terms of his "hockey sense," but like other draft eligible players, consistency seems to be an issue.
Gaunce's main weakness seems to be his mobility, which could be the reason may fall out of the top-15 in nine day's time.
From The Prospect Blog:
...His biggest issue is his mobility, specifically his acceleration and lateral movement. He is a good skater for his size, and gets the job done at the Ontario Hockey League level, but he could struggle to be as effective at the next level if he doesn’t improve his footwork and first few strides. He also needs to develop his lateral movement. Once again, it works at the Ontario Hockey League level, but he could be limited at the next level. Continued development of his east to west movement will be a key for him.
When you get past the top five to ten players in any draft, the drop-off in skill level has been well documented with a few exceptional cases, and occasionally, teams have to make some compromises. Do you take a guy who is, by all accounts, is strong, has a good shot and is inclined towards defence and hope that his skating will improve or do you take a flyer on a more creative playmaker who can out-skate his opposition but may not be as well-rounded? A guy like Gaunce is likely the safer pick, especially if you believe everything you read about his so-called intangibles on and off the ice, and as such, I'm not really sure he's what the Flames need at this point in time. He's a centre, which is one of the holes that Calgary needs filled, but the Flames have selected players in Gaunce's mould before (think Mitch Wahl, Lance Bouma, and maybe even Max Reinhart--although none were first round picks) and if they're going to select a forward, I think I'd prefer to see them lean toward someone with a little more flash-and-dash, but then again a player like that may not be available to them at 14.