Comets Tales: Being One - Brendan Gaunce

by Don Laible

Nov 25, 2014 “I’ll be honest, it’s a long time – three-and-a half or four hours,” Brendan Gaunce said on the wait to be drafted on Draft Day. “You always want to be drafted as high as you can but after today, the ranking doesn’t matter. It’s how much work you put into it.” – Vancouver Sun June 22, 2012.

It’s hard to make a case that hockey means more anywhere else in the American Hockey League than in Utica, New York.   First year Comet Brendan Gaunce can attest to this, and the Vancouver Canucks’ 2012 first-round draftee has only been here since late September.

The kid from Markham, Ontario is adapting to his first professional season just fine. Through 18 games, less than one quarter of the season, Gaunce, 20, has collected seven points (1 goal, 6 assists). His team resides in first place in the Western Conference’s North Division with 26 points and the two-way center is part of a productive line with mates Wacey Hamilton and Carter Bancks.

There are no visible signs of wanting to be the “center of attention”; shoot first, and repeat the process. In recent home games against the visiting Chicago Wolves, Gaunce, at times was nothing short of a whirling dervish. Before a sell-out crowd at The AUD, Wolves’ defenseman Chris Butler appeared to be Gaunce’s main person of interest.

On the penalty kill, Gaunce would be seen dashing about the rink in pursue of the puck. Early in the second period, Gaunce skated past center ice to connect with a chec, just beyond the blue line on Butler, a veteran of 349 NHL games. Bouncing off his opponent, Gaunce caught up with a bouncing puck. He makes a pass to Hamilton. Minutes later, on the power play, along with Cal O’Reilly, the pair assisted on Alexandre Grenier goal.

Before the game would end with the Comets collecting their fourth win in as many home sell-outs, Gaunce could be seen whizzing around Chicago’s netminder Jordan Binnington – taking shots on goal, and pestering Butler. Clearly, there are no hints of a deficiency of enthusiasm in this 2012 top Canucks’ draft pick.

“Personally, I don’t put any pressure in myself. Since I’ve been here, the team came close (with each other) from the start,”says Gaunce, “There are no egos. Our line (Hamilton and Bancks) works hard everyday.”

The transition from juniors to the AHL for Gaunce remains smooth. Bonding periods, first with prospects camp, then training camp, to being with the division leading Comets, is as good as any first-year pro could hope for.

Gaunce, born the spring the Canucks went to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers, off the ice, conducts himself far more mature than his age would indicate. As he addresses a post-game media conference, Gaunce is both articulate and direct. No questions are avoided, no cliches are used, and eye contact is maintained to all with microphones, cameras,and pads.

Before calling The AUD his work address, Gaunce made a case for himself as a blue-chip player with NHL scouts. Leading up to the NHL entry draft held in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, the league’s scouting department had Gaunce as the top-ranked Canadian forward.

Four seasons with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls and Erie Otters, averaging a very dependable 64 games each campaign, (Gaunce was traded from Belleville to Erie on 11/26/13), Brendan was on the Canucks’ radar early on. In just his second season with the Bulls, Gaunce averaged a point per game – registering 68 (28 goals, 40 assists).

“Everything about him is good,”then Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis said. “Good parents, good potential, good leadership. Captain material. Lots of character and a hard worker. There’s a really good foundation.”

There were no surprises of the Canucks’ interest in bringing Gaunce into their future. Reports circulated that, if necessary, they would be prepared to trade up to secure Gaunce. He went 26th overall.

Gaunce’s older brother Cameron, drafted in the second round in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche, currently skates for the Texas Stars. A member of last season’s Calder Cup champions, Cameron has already made it to the NHL. Last season he saw action in nine games with Dallas. From his early work in Utica, it appears very promising that Brendan will be the second in his family to skate in the world’s greatest league.

International experience playing opposite Swedes,Russians, Finns, and players from the Czech Republic in tournaments have a way of bringing out the best in the better players. For Brendan Gaunce, becoming a better player on the pro level, building an experienced resume is in full swing. For Gaunce this means being a One on the fourth line – with no reservations.

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