Price is Right: Former Canucks draft pick Brendan Gaunce having an NHL resurgence

Feb 24 2022, 12:41 am

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I don’t know if you happened to check out the Toronto Maple Leafs’ latest loss at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But even a cursory glance at the highlights or the boxscore would have provided a nice little easter egg for Canucks fans.

There you would have found a beautiful solo effort goal, giving the Blue Jackets a come from behind lead. A goal scored by one-time Vancouver Canuck Brendan Gaunce.

A blast from what feels, to me at least, the distant past. But it’s really not. We in the Canucks market have lived a thousand lives since we last crossed paths with Gaunce, but it wasn’t that long ago. Gaunce last played for the Canucks back in the 2018-19 season… only a few games, but he played 60 in the AHL that season.

It was the last hurrah with a management group that didn’t draft him, and needed him to be something that he wasn’t.

This is not another hit piece on either GM by the way. Mike Gillis drafted him 26th overall, Jim Benning saw him leave. And neither GM was way off here.

Gillis went with a guy that looked safe and promising. A class act, and smart player. And honestly, when we look back, not a ton of regret. There were “nice” players drafted just after Gaunce, but no serious misses. We’re talking Brady Skjei and Tanner Pearson. But such is life at the end of the first round, you never really know.

And for Benning, he understood that while Gaunce had all the intellect in the world, his skating and finish just wasn’t there. The organization loved Gaunce. But he wasn’t an NHL player, not then anyway.

Only, Gaunce didn’t want to hear that.

He had a season with the Boston Bruins after that, all but one game of the AHL variety in Providence. Gaunce then went to Sweden for a pandemic year with the Växjö Lakers. Not a lot of games in the regular season (12 points in 18 games), but he was very good. Then even better in the playoffs (seven points in 12 games).

That caught the eyes of CBJ and here we are. Gaunce did yeomen’s work in the AHL (28 points in 39 games) as he usually does. Goals, points, face-offs. Then got the call up to the big club on February 8.

He scored in his second game, which may not sound too crazy, but for a guy that once went over 80 straight NHL games without a goal, that’s a pretty nice monkey off the back. Since then, Gaunce racked up his first career three-point game on the weekend, and then the big one vs Toronto.

Five points in seven NHL games this season. Want the kicker here? He’s 27 years old. Might not be too late for him to realize the NHL dream. Am I betting on it? Probably not. But from what I know of Gaunce, I’m hoping for it.

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