Jamieson: Gillis says prospect Gaunce will be 'given every opportunity' to make Canucks
Canucks draft pic Brendan Gaunce has the potential to be a blue-chp player. When Canucks GM Mike Gillis stated at his May 9 season-ending media conference that his team needs to get younger, prospects such as Frank Corrado, Nicklas Jensen, both 20, and Jordan Schroeder, 22, came to mind. You can add Gaunce to that short list, though the 19-year-old still has a year’s junior elegibility remaining and has yet to attend an NHL training camp.
Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, Vancouver Sun
When Canucks GM Mike Gillis stated at his May 9 season-ending media conference that his team needs to get younger, prospects such as Frank Corrado, Nicklas Jensen, both 20, and Jordan Schroeder, 22, came to mind.
You can add Brendan Gaunce to that short list, though the 19-year-old still has a year’s junior elegibility remaining and has yet to attend an NHL training camp.
Gillis tossed out Gaunce’s name on May 9 and had this to say on Thursday in a TEAM 1040 interview when asked about the player the Canucks drafted 26th overall in 2012: “He’s going to be given every opportunity to make our hockey team. He’s really moved along. He’s very responsible at the junior level.”
Gillis added: “But he’s a young player and when you start introducing young players into your lineup, people need to be patient. He and others are going to be given great opportunities and we’ll see what they do with them.”
Gaunce is an intriguing prospect because he already has an NHL body – 6-foot-2, 215-pounds -- thanks to three summers working with training guru Gary Roberts -- oozes maturity and already has an evolved two-way game as a centre and sometime winger.
Reached on Thursday, the Toronto-area native said he’s aware of the apparent enhanced opportunity, but isn’t getting carried away with it.
“I think it’s some motivation for me to train a bit harder this year, but I don’t think that means anything towards this season and making the team,” said Gaunce. “Everyone comes into camp in the same spot. It’s obviously good for the younger guys that the team is looking to go younger but they still want success and the city wants success and they’re going to put together the best team they can with the players they have. If that involves a lot of young guys, great, but if it doesn’t then that’s what they need to do to be successful in the NHL.”
The biggest knock – and there’s almost always a knock – is Gaunce’s foot speed. But George Burnett, Gaunce’s coach with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, points out that his home ice surface is Olympic size and hasn’t been a problem for his captain to get around.
The suggestion is he’ll be given a shot at filling the gaping hole the Canucks have at third-line centre. That’s a lot to ask of a 19-year-old and mobility issues become glaring at the NHL level.
Gaunce plans to work again this summer on getting faster, but he’s also looking forward to surprising some people at training camp in September.
“I need to improve my skating, my speed and my explosiveness,” he said. “I don’t think I have a problem with my skating and people that are close to me and are with the teams I’m with don’t have a problem, either. People always have to find cracks in everyone’s game and that’s the one that’s most glaring for me. I’m comfortable with it, but obviously I want to improve it to get to the pro level.”
Gaunce, who’s already back training with Roberts for his fourth year, said he’ll take any opportunity as it comes.
“To be a pro, you have to embrace the role they give you – whether it’s first-line centre or fourth-line centre or whether you’re a healthy scratch and you just have to push guys in practice,” he said.
“I think I’ve learned that from the guys at the gym that are in the AHL. Some of them think they should be in the NHL, but now that they’re getting older they’re embracing the role and just pushing forward. I think whatever comes to me in the future you just have to look at it as positive and just stay on it.”
Canucks prospects for training camp:
2012-13 Team: Belleville (OHL)
Stats: 33-27-60 in 60 GP
Comment: Mr. Everything for the Bulls, shutdown centre, both special teams and led team in playoff scoring.
2012-13 Team: Kitchener/Sudbury (OHL)
Stats: 7-38-45 in 69 GP
Comment: Impressed with AHL Chicago after his junior season and then took it a step further by cracking the Canucks’ lineup in the playoffs.
2012-13 Team: Stockholm AIK (SEL)
Stats: 17-6-23 in 50 GP
Comment: After a strong season in the Swedish Elite League, Jensen face-planted in AHL Chicago, going 2-2-4 in 20 games, but has the physique (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) and style to be successful at the NHL level.
2012-13 Team: Chicago (AHL)
Stats: 12-21-33 in 42 GP
Comment: The small but lightning fast Schroeder had an impressive start when he was called up by the Canucks in early in the season, but tailed off and finished with just 3-6-9 in 31 NHL games. It’s a puzzle where he fits with a team that wants to get bigger.
2012-13 Team: Lake Superior State (CCHA)
Stats: 8-8-16 in 32 GP
Comment: We know the recent free agent signing from Oakville, Ont., is big (6-foot-6, 222 pounds) and is touted as physical with an edge. But we also know that going from U.S. college to the NHL is an enormous jump.
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