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2012 NHL Draft Prospect Profile: Brendan Gaunce

Brendan Gaunce, C

Birthplace: Markham, Ontario, 2/25/94
Bio: 6’2, 210 lbs., L
Belleville Bulls, OHL
Rankings: ISS – 11; CSS – 13 (NA)

The Skinny: Brendan Gaunce has been described as a ‘mediocre’ skater but has the size, strength and intangibles that mid-first-round selectors will crave in an excellent two-way center.

Coming into his OHL career highly-touted (the second overall selection in 2010 behind Alex Galchenyuk), Gaunce was expected to contribute right away on offense. While he didn’t go cold in his rookie campaign, it was certainly less than some had anticipated after he was such a dominant force as a midget. That said, Gaunce’s sophomore campaign has seen him produce at a point-per-game level and, simultaneously, develop into one of the best two-way forwards in the OHL.

Despite still not projecting as favorably as some of his 2012 draftmates, Gaunce will be highly sought-after because of his ability to do the ‘little’ things like winning faceoffs, backchecking effectively and contesting puck battles. He takes after his older brother in this fashion: Cameron (a second-round pick in 2008) is a strong and gritty defenseman in the Avs’ system.

Of course, his success in these areas is in no small part thanks to his large frame and strong build. At 6’2 and 210, he already has the physique of a professional. He’s very hard to push off the puck and protects it well: Gaunce is a beast along the boards.

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. He’s got excellent leadership skills and the work ethic to impress coaches and teammates alike.

Gaunce’s most significant weakness is his skating game. His stride is awkward and he doesn’t possess the agility, acceleration or top speed that teams are looking for in a first-round selection. Additionally, while he’s a decent attacking threat, there are those who doubt his ability to produce at a first or even second-line level.

If he had good wheels, there would be a decent argument for Gaunce’s inclusion as a top-ten pick in the 2012 Draft. The fact that he doesn’t hurts his stock, but his all-around game is too good for mid- and late-round teams to pass up. He’s a fairly sure bet to make the jump to the NHL sooner than later (given his size and polish) so some team looking for secondary scoring, two-way play, grit and intangibles will come knocking before pick twenty-five.

Ideal Fits: Teams in the second-half of the first who need a big, solid two-way center down the road: San Jose, Phoenix, New Jersey, Pittsburgh

Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because teams love meat ‘n potatoes-type forwards who can play at both ends and finish heavily.

Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because his top-six upside is questionable; because they are looking for more ‘dynamic’ and less ‘safe’.

Strengths: Strength, Size, Defensive Acumen, Shooting, Grit, Intangibles

Weaknesses/Concerns: Skating, Creativity, Upside

Projection: Two-Way Second/Third Line ‘Tweener’ Center (25g, 50p potential)

Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round (12-25)

Overall Rank: 33

N.A. Rank: 23

OHL Rank: 10

Forward Rank: 17

Canadian National Rank: 13

Bob is the Boston Bruins correspondent for The Hockey Writers and a credentialed member of the Providence Bruins' Media.

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