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(Article)Botchford:Canucks prospects: Switch to wing revs up Brendan Gaunce

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http://www.theprovince.com/touch/story.html?id=8885432

PENTICTON — When the Canucks left a centre spot open to give one of their prospects a chance to earn it, they probably weren’t expecting Cole Cassels to be their best centre and Brendan Gaunce to be playing wing.

That’s where Gaunce, the 220-pound centre, found himself Sunday after a disappointing first period saw the Edmonton Oilers prospects, who everyone has been beating, jump out to a 2-0 lead.

The move sparked Gaunce. In his first four periods over two games here, he was a relative no-show at centre. But on his first shift on the wing, he connected on a pretty give-and-go with Philippe Maillet.

The goal turned the game around. The young Canucks went on to in win 4-2. But what does it mean for Gaunce’s shot at the NHL if he can’t hold down the centre spot on Travis Green’s rookie team?

“I don’t know if it’s fair for me to give an impression of him yet,” coach Green said. “It will play itself out regardless. He’s going to be close to playing in the NHL one day. Time will tell.”

Fair or not, and it’s not, Gaunce hasn’t been able to shake Brent Sutter’s claim he is a “way’s away” from being a pro.

That could change, of course. It’s early. He’s played only two games and has the Canucks’ main training camp and the preseason coming up.

He hasn’t been terrible, even if the 18-year-old Cassels, a third-round 2013 draft pick, outplayed him.

Gaunce got two assists Sunday, and could have had more. There’s a lot to like in Gaunce. He plays smart. He was winning face-offs before Green gave him the hook.

“I moved Gaunce to the wing, because I didn’t like the look of the game. I didn’t like where it was going,” Green said.

Gaunce knows he didn’t play well in his first game, but, and this is important, he did get better in the second after the move to wing.

“I wasn’t comfortable with how I played (in the first game), and I wanted to come in (Sunday) and show to myself I can play at a better level, and I think I did that,” Gaunce said.

“I played wing (on and off) for the whole back half of last year and the playoffs.

“I’m comfortable playing wherever.

“I think (the wing) allows you to anticipate more. As a centre, you have to wait and you have to be the last guy out of the zone in case there’s a turnover or something.

“As a winger ... when you get a break, you can just go.”

Gaunce’s performance in Penticton has at least provided a hint as to why Sutter seemed to have an issue with him. He hasn’t been physical enough.

It’s evidently going to take some time for him to learn how to use that large frame. Because if he’s getting pushed around a little here, and he is, what’s going to happen against men?

“For me to say whether he should be more physical, I’d rather not comment on it,” Green said. “As a centre, it’s not always easy to be physical.

“I see him being a third-line centre down the road. Possibly, a second-line guy.”

In the first period, Gaunce spun around the Edmonton net and passed on hitting an Oilers defenceman. The decision backfired when the blueliner easily followed Gaunce to the front of the net and plucked a scoring chance from his stick.

Later, Gaunce provided little help to Nicklas Jensen, who was getting roughed up in front of Edmonton’s net. Gaunce made a move toward the action but got scooped up by 6-foot-3 forward Brandon Baddock, who quickly put the Canucks prospect in a headlock and held him there for 20 seconds.

Haunted by a lack of depth at centre last year, the Canucks responded in the offseason by rolling dice.

They bet on Brad Richardson. They hope he’s got more jam than anyone saw last year, a season in which he was a healthy scratch in 27 of the L.A. Kings’ first 29 games.

Was he victimized playing behind a stacked team and is he now ready to devour more playing time?

That’s a fairly risky bet by a team that has annual concerns about Ryan Kesler’s durability.

The Canucks also were vocal this offseason about a willingness to gamble on youth.

Behind Henrik Sedin, Kesler and Richardson still sits a significant hole. But they’re still waiting for one of their prospects to show he may be ready to fill it.

If none are ready, the Canucks believe they may be able to find a centre on the waiver wire.

After three games in Penticton, that’s what I’m betting they’ll have to do.

jbotchford@theprovince.com

Versatility is a plus

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Imo he is a ways away.....you see him in clothes and he looks like a kid and not the type to naturally rough it up in a scrum of men...needs some confidence building situations in Utica methinks.

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Another year in Junior, as well as Horvat and Shinkaruk. One year in the AHL and he'll be ready.

Looks like Jensen may make the jump and really that's all the nucks need. They just need jensen to show he can play on the top 2 lines and we'll have a great deal of depth, youth and no reason to rush the next crop (named above). Gaunce is only 19 years old lol...let him develop.

Sedin Sedin Kassian

Burrows Kesler Jensen

Booth Schroeder Hansen

Wiesse/Mallet Richardson Higgins

not bad

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I just don't think any of our prospects need to be rushed so I'm okay with him not making the team. Jensen, Kassian and Schroeder will be the young guys we go to this year.

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Right...because a "prospect game" is a totally fair evaluation of how a player plays...*rolls eyes*

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Gaunce was getting trolled all game long after the whistle. I think he made a pre game decision not to get an injury by getting sucked into a scrum or a fight by an Edmonton team that had played over the edge all tourney long. Botchford should perhaps look at the bigger picture, yeesh, main camp is days away.

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Botch is an idiot as always.

I do hope that Gaunce can get it together during main camp and nail down that 3rd line centre spot that we really need filled.

Schroeder is not the answer... he ranged from average to terrible once the rest of the NHL players shook the rust off after the lockout (he and Kassian had an initial advantage last year having played in the minors).

Jensen and Gaunce are the best bets to make the team this year, with Shinkaruk and Horvat possibly getting their 9 game look at the beginning of the season while a couple of the veterans are inevitably out with minor groin tweaks etc.

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Imo he is a ways away.....you see him in clothes and he looks like a kid and not the type to naturally rough it up in a scrum of men...needs some confidence building situations in Utica methinks.

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I just don't think any of our prospects need to be rushed so I'm okay with him not making the team. Jensen, Kassian and Schroeder will be the young guys we go to this year.

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Right...because a "prospect game" is a totally fair evaluation of how a player plays...*rolls eyes*

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It definitely seems that Gaunce has yet to truly learn how to properly use his size in many different aspects of the game.

I will be very interested to see how Torts can push Gaunce and get the best out of him.

I think that's exactly what the kid needs.

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Seems to me that Gaunce, Jensen & Kassian have similar concerns to work upon....like: consistancy, game readiness & intensity.

Playing tough & on-the-edge IS a challenging thing to do - consistantly. Gaunce appears to be constantly weighing the odds of risks vs rewards. In a coach's mind tho'.... he's often in error. A guy like Kesler goes full boar & gets hurt sometimes as a result..but he's a true Pro,...he wants to win,.... he wants to be considered among the best,.... & he has his pride & accountability to his 'mates egging him forward. Apparently, Gaunce has a more-carefully tempered on/off switch.

Kassian...has a desire to score...yet he doesn't seem to embrace the distinction of being an agitator or a fighter. He doesn't always appreciate how an agitator can open-up the ice, cause turn-overs, & force opponents to make mistakes....that will eventually allow himself or his linemates to score - more. He needs to think about both responsibilities & execute them...simultaneously. We see flashes & hope experience will be his greatest teacher.

Kassian is also uninspired by infrequent 4th-line minutes. He doesn't consider 'em as valuable or equal to top-line minutes. But - that's seriously flawed-thinking for any hockey player. Buying in to a strict health & fitness regimen, both on & off the ice, is also part of becoming a true professional...& that takes many sacrifices. I believe Jensen & Gaunce...have these same stumbling block too.

So,....you are right. Tortorella will either make....or break these players....& I'm eager to see which way this goes.

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Seems to me that Gaunce, Jensen & Kassian have similar concerns to work upon....like: consistancy, game readiness & intensity.

Playing tough & on-the-edge IS a very challenging thing to do - consistantly. It seems to me that a guy like Gaunce is constantly weighing the odds of risks vs the rewards. In a coach's mind tho'.... he's is in error a lot. A guy like Kesler goes full boar & gets hurt sometimes as a result..but he's a true Pro,...he wants to win,.... he wants to be considered among the best,.... & he has his pride & an accountability to his 'mates egging him on.

Kassian...has a desire to score ...yet he doesn't want the distinction or rep. of being an agitator or just some fighter. He doesn't always appreciate that an agitator opens-up the ice, causes turn-overs, & forces his opponents to make mistakes....that will eventually allow him or his linemates to score - more. Nor does Kassian seem as inspired by his infrequent 4th line minutes. He does not appear to consider them as valuable or equal to top-line minutes. That's seriously flawed-thinking for any hockey player. A serious committment to a proper health & fitness regimen or life-style both on & off the ice is a part of that. I believe that Jensen...has these same stumbling blocks.

Tortorella will either make....or break these players....and - I'm pretty eager to see which way this goes.

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Jensen is showing nothing but consistency, which is why he might seem to lack flash + flair, but in the end I think he's the best bet to make the team this season.

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Don't get me wrong. I am a huge Jensen-fan. He's a viking-kid after-all. But up against top NHLers...you will see the cracks more clearly.

Playing on the edge with more consistancy.... being inspired (no matter when/where the minutes come)...& sacrificing like a Pro.... those 3 things, combined with more NHL experience,...& I totally believe that Jensen will pan-out very well for our 'Nucks. He may even make ya forget Mason Raymond.

I'm fairly certain he'll be sticking with the big club after camp - but his selection isn't assured just yet.

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From what I have seen of Gaunce me thinks he's great on faceoffs, seems to make crisp passes, and he seems to be comfortable on the defensive side of the puck.

The Bad: he lacks foot speed coupled with slow reads means he seems to always be standing in the wrong spot or chasing the play around.

He is a hulking 220pf pylon in the offensive zone. If he can ever get mentally up to speed on the play unfolding infront of him he still has a long way to go to get his body up to speed for the NHL.

Right now I wouldn't project him as more than a 4th liner at least for a couple years. I also don't think he has the sand for that role If I was Tortorella I would tell this kid he's no Cody H and that he's gonna have to gut it out in the AHL and show some sand if hes gonna have a career in the NHL because right now I don't see it.

Who knows maybe he can get up to speed he just seems a long long ways away from even post injury Malhotra to me.

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Do think that foot spped is key for the current year...

struggling alittle bit with skating hampers all good players..

players with less skill vision etc...can do better if they have better foot speed......

prospect camp...shows glimples of what can be....

remebering that it mopre unstructered...with little chemistry and players having to be more unselfish to stand out and make a play for camp(although the canucks prospects looked to be very team oriented this year)

Main camp shows what its like to play against men...the speed,physicality and the quickness(thinking,shooting etc).......also with veterns in the lineups..will add more stucture and flow...either showcasing or exposing the young prospects.

based on foot speed ..it may be very unlikely it makes it with the big team

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I think Gaunce could make it as a 4th line winger. Even if it's only for a few games. Just so he can see the speed of it and then maybe that will help him be dominant in the O. He just needs to learn to be more physical or else he won't get a sniff. I really really like him though and agree with Travis Green's assessment in him being a second or 3rd line guy. This year isn't the year just yet. Same with Horvat and Shinkaruk. Jensen will definitely play a few games and I am sure he will get better. I expect next year we will see all 4 of our 1st rounders from the last 3 years on the team. It's going to allow for alot of flexibility in free agency...ALOT!!!

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People simply continue to forget that Brendan Gaunce is still only 19 years old. Not every 19 year old is quite ready for NHL which is understandable. He still has time to develop those skills such as skating, physicality and consistency. There is a reason why he is still elligible to play in junior, who says you have to automatically make the team by his age. Rushing him is not gonna help us or him so It is best he plays another year in Junior, that goes for any prospects in our system.

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Gaunce seems to have everyone (coaches) against him. I hope he proves everyone wrong and has a great camp with the Canucks, a great OHL season and makes team Canada.

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