Photo Credit: Jake Roth - USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Gaunce: The Story Of A Perfectly Average Draft Pick

With his clearing of waivers on Saturday, it seems likely that Brendan Gaunce’s NHL career has more-or-less come to an end. Sitting at 114 games in the big league, the former first round pick might seem like a bust, but the numbers paint a different picture. In actuality, Gaunce is a perfectly average representation of the real value of a 26th overall pick.

According to data compiled by TSN’s Scott Cullen, only 64% of the players drafted at 26th overall between 1990 and 2014 have gone on to play in 100 or more NHL games. That means that 36% of players drafted where Gaunce was picked didn’t even make it as far as he did.

Gaunce’s career point totals are certainly lackluster, but Cullen’s data shows that more than 50% of the players drafted at 26th who make the NHL reach a peak status of “4th line or worse.” Only 28% of them go on to play top-six, top-four, or starting roles for any significant period of time. In other words, Gaunce might not be an NHL regular when all is said and done, but neither is the average player drafted at his position.

One doesn’t just have to look at the numbers to see how middle-of-the-road the Gaunce pick was. In the years surrounding Gaunce’s 2012 selection, there were only a couple star players drafted 26th overall, Cory Schneider and Evgeni Kuznetsov, and a handful of other NHL regulars—Brian Boyle, David Perron, Tyler Ennis, Kyle Palmieri, and Shea Theodore.

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The rest of the 26th overall club is made up of tweeners like Gaunce and outright busts, an unimpressive list that contains names like Jason Bachashihua, Martin Vagner, Matt Pelech, and Leland Irving. Gaunce had a better NHL career than anyone in this group, but never established himself as an everyday player like the above group, and that puts him firmly in the “average” category. The Gaunce pick could have been better, but it also could have been worse—Brady Skjei and Tanner Pearson went shortly after Gaunce, but so did Henrik Samuelsson and Stefan Matteau 2.0.

In short, the Vancouver Canucks received the most likely outcome from the 26th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Brendan Gaunce wasn’t a steal by any stretch of the imagination, but he also wasn’t much of a disappointment—at least as far as draft history is concerned. It’s something that Canuck fans should keep in mind as the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline approaches and visions of dealing Chris Tanev for first round draft picks dance in their heads. Sometimes, a late first round draft pick sounds a lot better in theory than it does in practice.

  • Puck Viking

    Its really to bad. If he was a touch faster and provided a touch more offense he would at least make an excellent 4th liner much like a Beagle who we just wasted millions on.

    • Freud

      The simple minded are sure owning Gaunce with the stats. A deeper look shows Gaunce played 37 games to Schaller’s 82. Schaller also had 3 empty net goals. Schaller also averaged over 2 minutes of ice time more a game.

      At even strength, Gaunce and Schaller basically scored goals at the same rate per 60 min of ice time and Schaller had an edge in assists per 60 minutes. This doesn’t factor in the fact Schaller played on a better team with better line mates.

      I can easily imagine Benning evaluating Schiller and Gaunce the way they just were compared here. Now we understand why this team is in such bad shape this year.

      • DJ_44

        PQW speaks up! The season before, in the same number of games(57 vs 59), Schaller had 7 + 7. Unfortunately we cannot speak in multiples of goals, since we know Brendan had 0. Gaunce has hands of stone, Unless the puck deflects off a shin pad, he ain’t scoring in the NHL.

        Signing Schaller for two seasons when we are well below the cap was a solid move, provided he plays well. If not, waive and bury. If he does play well, flip him to a team that needs depth for a playoff run.

      • Canuck4Life20

        Well there you go trying to sound smart again. Nice try. How anyone that gets owned on here as often as you do has the nerve to call anyone simple minded is beyond me. Why did Gaunce get less ice time and make it into only 37 games on one of the worst teams in the league smart guy? Meanwhile Schaller got into all 82 for the Bruins. Schaller’s goals per 60 was 0.66, Gaunce’s 0.48. That’s not essentially the same thing smart guy – it’s a 35% difference.

    • DJ_44

      Twice the money, three times the goals, four times the points, with an edge…..at least no one is claiming it was because he was a Gillis pick……anyone???

  • wojohowitz

    I`m a Gaunce fan. He looked good a couple of years ago on the fourth line, as a winger, with Sutter and Dorset, learning how to forecheck and play defense and now he should be a third or fourth line center. Instead Benning decided he needed Beagle to anchor the fourth line but why we will never know.

    • Beer Can Boyd

      The answer is intensity. If Gaunce ever figures out how to play as intense a game as Beagle does every night, he’ll be right back in the NHL playing that exact role. He’s only 24 years old, don’t write him off just yet.

      • Gino's 3rd Cousin

        Intensity is something that is hard to learn, especially if you’ve made your way into your 20’s without it being a defining attribute. Looking at Leipsic and Motte as imperfect examples of this, not blessed with the size of Gaunce, but carrying the intensity to fight for their spot. Probably a fragmented sentence/run-on, but I am tired and drank a lot of beers at my hockey pool draft.

  • Can’t say that the Gaunce selection wasn’t without warning. Looking at THW’s Next Ones report on him, they warned that he lacked intensity and needed to improve his puck handling and skating. I recall the knock against him that, despite being top-tier physically (one of the top scorers in the draft combine), he never used his size when he was in junior. It’s like Virtanen, he has the physical attributes to be a devastating power forward but won’t hit or play aggressively.

    That being said, Gaunce was really good offensively in his last few stints in Utica so hopefully he can still figure it out and be a more dangerous player next year.

  • Dirty30

    Gagner getting waived should be a solid wake-up for players like Gaunce and Reid Boucher who just don’t seem to be motivated to take one step forward in their own development.

  • speering major

    Although Gaunce played over 100 games and I’m happy for him, he only played those games for a bottom feeding injury riddled team. He also scored at a lower rate than Odjick

  • Robeerto_Dubrowski

    I feel that it might not have been Gaunce’s fault that he played all those NHL games. Vancouver’s prospects were not deep and the big club saw some injuries that showed that their forward core was as deep as the prospects. Gaunce defaulted into playing games because he was decent defensively, that could not be said for just about every other prospect at the time, see Reid Boucher, but his offensive game was non-existent. The real question is should Gaunce have played 114 NHL games, and did he provide the Canucks with replacement player levels during those games.

  • Kanuckhotep

    Brendan is an intelligent kid who listened to his coaches and never hurt them defensively. They liked him I thought but the politics of inflated FA signings made this happen. Granted he ain’t Stammer or Ovie for putting the puck in the net but it’s plain and simple a numbers game.

    • Defenceman Factory

      I don’t think it’s really a numbers game. It is a case of management deliberately going out and signing players who are a significant upgrade on Gaunce.

  • Chris the Curmudgeon

    I think it’s still a bit early to write off Gaunce in the NHL. I wouldn’t be too surprised if we see him for a few callups this year, for example, and the guy is “only” 24: not prospect age, but only entering his prime. For all the attention paid to his defence, note that he received the most defensively skewed deployment of any regular player in the entire league last year. Yes, that’s right, Brendan Gaunce’s 85.1% DZ start was the single highest of any guy who played more than 9 games. Says that a: the coach trusts him defensively, and b: he was never put in a position to register a lot of points.

    So, yes, rough break for him, but I think he’s a more intense player than some here are allowing and don’t think we’ve seen the last of him yet.

  • canucklehead44

    He plays a very similar game to Malhotra and Beagle. Difference is Gaunce was moved to wing – I don’t think Malhotra or Beagle would have had the careers they had playing wing.

    The other point was Malhotra was waived in his 6th season and his career took off with Columbus and he never looked back. Beagle never played more than 60 games in a season until his 8th pro year and did not hit double digit points until his 9th pro year.

    I really hope Gaunce plays as the top line centre role in Utica. If he can be a 55% faceoff guy the rest of his defensive game is already solid. He could take over from Beagle in a few years as a high value bottom six centre. Not giving up on him yet!