The Canucks announced today that they have recalled utility forward Brendan Gaunce, who had become their top AHL prospect.
Gaunce has had a very impressive sophomore season in the AHL and is well deserving of another look at the NHL. The unfortunate side effect of this move though is that it further hamstrings the Utica Comets, a team that had already been weakened by Vancouver’s moves surrounding the NHL trade deadline.
Brendan Gaunce has been recalled from the @UticaComets.
— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) March 1, 2016
Let’s start with the positives: Brendan Gaunce has been a revelation this season in the American Hockey League. Once tumbling down the Canucks prospect rankings, Gaunce has become far and away the Comets best all around player, scoring a lot of points playing huge minutes in all situations, and in every forward position.
No Comet has been more versatile than Brendan Gaunce this season. He’s split the majority of his time between the first and second lines, though he has dropped to the bottom six a couple of times for brief reunions with Wacey Hamilton and Carter Bancks, his linemates from his rookie season, in occasional efforts to spark offence.
He’s been a mainstay on the first unit power play throughout the season, and has been the centre on that unit since Linden Vey was recalled by the Canucks in December. He is also an integral part of the penalty kill, usually on the second or third forward pairing of the rotation. His combined duties have made him the most utilized player on the team, with an estimated TOI of 20:42.
Gaunce’s offensive totals have been impressive this season, as his 15 goals and 33 points in 43 games shatter last season’s numbers in substantially less games (11 goals and 29 points in 74 games). For all the cachet surrounding Hunter Shinkaruk, Gaunce actually had him beat in even strength goals (11) and points (22) at the time of the trade.
This will be Brendan Gaunce’s second stint in the NHL this season, after he made his debut back in November. In two games, the 21-year old averaged 10:49 of ice time, putting two shots on net and scoring his first NHL goal.
That one wasn’t pretty, but a number of goals he’s scored at the AHL level this year have been. The Canucks have stated that Gaunce’s all around game was already NHL ready, and with his extra time in the minors they were hoping that he could further develop his scoring touch. That seems to be coming along well lately.
Hopefully Gaunce is able to bring some of that to the NHL, as the disappointment of the trade deadline has left piles of fans feeling nothing but apathy towards the team. Some young blood in the lineup might help a little.
On the flip side, the Comets are in a worse spot than ever. Granted, they are only there for the development of Canucks prospects, and lots of people won’t be feeling bad, but in a year where the Canucks have little to no chance of making the playoffs, it would be even more damaging to have their farm team miss that boat as well.
Yet the chances that that will happen are only going to increase with this move, on the heels of an 9-day period that took the Comets from a surging underdog and tore them into shambles. The trade of Hunter Shinkaruk, the leading goal scorer and point getter on the Comets, was a gut punch. Getting no one to replace him at the trade deadline only made matters worse. Not papering down any waiver exempt Canucks players further exacerbated the problem. Finally, losing Adam Cracknell on waivers not only took away a potential veteran to help in the playoff drive, it necessitated another call up to replace Cracknell in the Canucks lineup.
This is the effect of Cracknell being claimed off waivers. Good for Gaunce who gets another chance to impress. https://t.co/zVwSCNqkZ2
— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) March 1, 2016
And as the crap sandwich called fate would have it, that call up would be their new leading scorer, Brendan Gaunce.
So rejoice Canucks fans, because new young blood is here. While you’re drinking away your trade deadline sorrows, and enjoying all the youth on the Canucks roster, don’t forget to pour one out for the poor Comets and their dwindling playoff chances. Sorry about that.