This draft profile is on Brendan Gaunce, the top center for the Belleville Bulls this past season in the OHL. Gaunce is perhaps the top two-way forward in the draft this year and gets just as much praise for his intangibles and leadership abilities as he does his ability to put the puck in the net. While Gaunce is expected to be drafted in the middle of the first round, he could be considered a reach #13 -- depending on how the draft shakes out.
Center / Belleville Bulls - OHL
March 25 1994
Hometown: Markham, ONT
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Final CSS North American Rank: 13th
Future Considerations: 18th
Hockey Prospect: 25th
The Scouting Report: 14th
Gaunce is a bulking two-way power forward who can also finish and distribute the puck at a high level. He is a really smart hockey player with tremendous instincts and vision on the ice. Even though he's an aggressive checker, he also has the ability to pull up along the side boards, control a power play and be a very effective distributor. Gaunce makes all the little plays consistently with his distribution game and he also is able to show the ability to see and make the difficult passes. Gaunce is a strong player and you see it in his shooting ability as he really leans into his wrist and slap shots, showing plus finishing ability from beyond the blue paint. He is also pretty physically advanced in terms of his frame and muscle mass and is at least in that aspect ready for the next level, although I wouldn't be crazy about him making the jump until he's 19 or 20. Gaunce is dangerous on the forecheck with his strength and work ethic, but also shows as much determination in the other end of the rink, where combined with his hockey sense, it makes him quite an effective two-way centerman. His puck skills are average, though, as he's not one to make a good hands play. He is also is a below-average skater as well who isn't that dangerous in transition.
Gaunce is an extremely well rounded prospect who processes great vision, hockey sense, as well as leadership qualities. He's not a player who will overwhelm you any in one aspect of the game but he does have the unique ability to be such a complete player at this young of an age. Gaunce is a great decision maker both with the puck on his stick as well as away from the puck on the defensive end of the ice. He has an extremely hard and accurate shot which has the ability to find its way to the net through traffic. Gaunce could very well develop into a player who will be on the ice at all points of the game and never look out of place. At this point in time he seems to have the upside as a strong two-way centerman, he does however have to work on his skating ability to get there.
Brendan Gaunce has great vision, skating ability, hockey sense, a pro calibre shot, and unbelievable leadership qualities on and off the ice. He is the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche prospect Cameron Gaunce, and will most likely be selected in the first twenty picks of the 2012 NHL Draft. He was the highest-scoring AAA minor midget hockey player in Ontario in his OHL draft year with 55 goals and 93 assists for 148 points in 86 games with the Markham Waxers. In his rookie year with the Belleville Bulls, Gaunce had 36 points in 65 games, and will be relied on heavily in the 2011-2012 season. One of Brendan's role models growing up was Brendan Shanahan. Considering his size, Gaunce is an above average skater, however it will need to be improved to be a star at the next level.
When I first started to hear about Brendan Gaunce earlier this season, the initial descriptions of his game immediately made me think of Brenden Morrow. Gaunce has the reputation as a strong, hulking center who is at his best on the forecheck and possesses incredible intangibles and leadership qualities. However, after seeing a few games with Gaunce late in the season and based upon final rankings and scouting reports -- it's obvious that Gaunce is much more than just the hard-checking center he was initially made out to be.
Gaunce is not a player that possesses a distinct "wow factor," as nothing about his offensive skill or game really stands out as outstandingly special. What Gaunce does do, however, is play exceptionally strong in both ends of the ice as well as on the penalty kill and power play. Perhaps the top two-way forward in the draft, Gaunce combines above-average defensive instincts and ability with superb vision with the puck and excellent distribution skills. He's not the ultimate playmaker at center that the Stars desperately need, but he has the potential to be #2 center that is effective against top compeition -- offensively and defensively.
Gaunce isn't the best skater, however, as that is by far the consensus weak spot in his game. He has above average shot and can score from distance, but he won't be using deft stick-handling skills to deke his way to the net. As much talk as there is about his skills on the ice, Gaunce gets just as much attention for his leadership skills as well and he certainly seems to be a future candidate for a captain in the NHL. While the comparisons to Morrow are certainly valid in some ways, Gaunce has the potential to be much more -- a hard checking center who is just as good in his own zone as he is on offense.
Gaunce is physically mature and could be just a year away from being NHL ready.
Most rankings have Gaunce as a mid-first round pick at best, and he slipped a bit from mid-term rankings after a disappointing second half of the season, and with just three points in six games in the playoffs. While Gaunce could be seen as a bit of a reach at #13, if the top five centers in the draft are already gone and the defensemen left don't force the Stars to go in that direction -- then Gaunce could be seen a legitimate pick that high in the draft.
Gaunce would certainly be significant upgrade to the center position for the Stars organization, but the question is whether the Stars are in more need of pure offensive talent and production rather than another hard-checking power forward with good intangibles.