With critics nervously cringing at the Canucks upcoming roadtrip, the boys outta VanCity stormed off to a strong 5-2 win against their first foe, the Flyers of Philadelphia.
The win also came on a day where Derek Dorsett returned to Vancouver for proactive medical evaluations. The Canucks lineup was suddenly left with a specific hole to fill.
Enter Brendan Gaunce.
Gaunce, the Canucks’ 26th overall pick in the 2012 entry draft, was surrounded by an air of excitement and optimism as then-GM Mike Gillis called out his name at the podium. Despite so-so junior numbers, 238 in 258 GP, much was still being made of his 6’2″ puck-protecting frame.
Unfortunately, Gaunce’s career hasn’t evolved the way he nor the Canucks fan base would have liked. Since getting his first taste of NHL hockey in the 2015-16 season, ol’ Gauncer has logged a mere 82 total games with only a single goal to go along with his five assists. For those keeping track at home, that’s one less career point than Alex Auld. So yeah, not really Earth shattering.
But don’t throw your remote just yet. With all this career flat-lining, people are quick to forget Gaunce is only 23 years old. It’s a far cry from writing a player off. Now it’s entirely likely BG isn’t going to suddenly turn into a point-per-game player, but the argument is still very strong that Gaunce could eventually develop into a reliable bottom-six NHL forward – especially with the immediate concerns hovering over Dorsett.
Bottom-six forward? We’re supposed to get jacked up over a checker? Well, the short answer is yeah. You damn right you are. If you can develop this kind of player from within the organization, you do so. Zero questions. You could thus save yourself draft picks from having to trade for a player of this ilk. And if you haven’t been paying attention, the Canucks can kinda use all the draft picks they can get their hands on.
Role players such as these serve just as much of a purpose on the ice as net-fillers. I mean, look at a guy like Manny Malhotra – the dude rose to the ranks of a tanned demi-god because of how he dominated the dot. And don’t give me any crap about how the Canucks ‘wasted a first round pick on a checker,’ either. Manny was taken 7th overall by the Rangers in ’98.
Nothing is a given, though. Green could easily send Gauncer packing in no time. Yet it’s worth noting Gaunce currently boasts a better corsi-for percentage (45.2) than both Dorsett (42.9) and Sutter (42.1). Five games may not be the largest of sample sizes, but there are some good signs tossed into the mix here.
In fact, one of Hirsch’s many compliments tonight tossed in Gaunce’s direction was towards his defensive abilities. And this, my friends, is on a night where he had a game-high six shots on net. More than anyone on the ice.
Eliteprospects echo Mr. Hirsch’s comments as well. The site praises Gaunce in the following fashion:
“Defensively, very aware and active; uses the boards to his advantage and actively takes away shooting and passing lanes.”
Granted this was likely written a couple years ago, but it’s clear there is a definite versatility to Gaunce’s game – something the Canucks could definitely use.
Written by Chris Heavenor