Erik Gudbranson, D Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Born: January 7, 1992 in Orleans, Ontario
Scouting report: Prototypical NHL defender with size, mobility, two-way potential and some natural snarl.
Strengths: Nice, wide-bodied frame with a lot of room to fill out and add strength. Strong skater; good acceleration, forwards and backwards mobility, and the agility to move laterally with the puck carrier. Not as dynamic a skater as Cam Fowler, but still one of the better skating d-men available in the draft class. Possesses a howitzer cannon for a shot; big windup and generates a lot of torque and power on the drive. Good passer who is able to make the quick feeds on the breakout. An aggressive hitter who uses size and strength to his advantage; relishes contact and staples opponents to the boards the way any physical defender should. Uses long reach effectively on the pokecheck. Makes good decisions with and without the puck in the defensive zone; and instinctive player who plays solid positionally and maintains his discipline in the face of opposition pressure. Will readily drop the gloves and has demonstrated himself to be an effective fighter in the OHL. Intelligent and hard-working; has future coach written all over him. Character player and leader who inspires by example. A fan favorite for his ability to play a steady, skill game or bring the power/sandpaper.
Weaknesses: Sees the ice well enough, but needs to improve puck distribution and make reads a little faster; at times prone to indecisiveness when in possession of the puck on offense. Injuries to lower body and mononucleosis derailed what could have been a monster year for him, preventing him from showcasing his abilities at the CHL Top Prospects Game in January. More than one scout has questioned his offensive upside at the next level; numbers in junior are nothing to write home about, so was it more because he was unable to stay healthy this year or is it that he lacks that element to his game that will allow for the production to come with the rock solid D and snarl?
Style compares to: Dion Phaneuf, Shea Weber
Draft prediction: 4th overall to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Don't look now, but Scott Howson and company are assembling a pretty decent stable of defenders in their prospect pool. Last year, they lucked out when John Moore fell down to them farther than anticipated and this time around, they'll come away with a player in Gudbranson who has the potential to be a No. 1 NHL defender even with some of the questions. Howson won't gamble the pick on a forward with injury concerns like Brett Connolly, although Finnish puck wiz Mikael Granlund wouldn't be a bad option here. Columbus will probably also seriously consider goaltender Jack Campbell here, who played as well as anyone but undoubtedly rocked his interviews at the combine as one of the more articulate, mature and poised prospects in the class. That said, they'll probably trust that the 09-10 season was an aberration for Steve Mason before investing a top-five selection on a netminder who is at least several years away.
Projection: Potential No. 1 defender, solid No. 2 with 40-50 point upside if he can refine his puck skills. Gudbranson's real value will be in his toughness and tenacity, provided he can stay healthy. If he develops his offensive game given the physical tools at his disposal, he could end up being the best defender in the class. He doesn't have Fowler's pure talent or puckhandling skills, but will be an asset to his team because of his aggressiveness and ability to play any role on the blue line. Given his bomb of a shot, Gudbranson will likely be given an opportunity to QB the PP at some time, but he'll have to be able to work a little faster on the point. He had a terrible World Under-18 tourney in April (one assist in six games) but a big part of that was Gudbranson being forced into an offensive/puck carrier role he was ill-suited to play given Team Canada's makeup on 'D'. He's still going to go high in the draft, but teams are at least more aware of his limitations as a result of the performance in Belarus. He's a few years away from the NHL, but should become a regular because of his well-rounded game.
Background: Won the Bobby Smith Trophy as OHL Scholastic Player of the Year. 4th overall pick of Kingston in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection Draft. Parents are Wayne and Donna Gudbranson. Younger brother, Alex (15), also a defenseman, was taken by Kingston in the opening round of the 2010 OHL Draft. Other younger brother, Dennis, is a two-time cancer survivor at age 12. Also has a younger sister, Chantel.
"We've got him ahead of Fowler. I think he has the potential to be Chris Pronger Jr. He has a real nasty streak and has more offense than people give him credit for."- NHL scout quoted in The Hockey News 2010 NHL Draft Preview
“Erik has shown this year what hard work gets you on and off the ice. “He is proof as well that it is possible to excel not only on the ice, but in the classroom.”- Larry Mavety, Kingston Frontenacs GM as quoted in an OHL release published in the Junior Report; April, 2010
"In my opinion, Gudbranson is another Chris Pronger-type. What he brings that (Pronger) really didn't do much of, though, is he'll fight. He is some kind of tough. Pronger is mean and will hit you; Gudbranson will hit you and fight you."- Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting to NHL.com; April, 2010
"Unlike my other little siblings I knew something was wrong. I knew it was a big deal seeing (Dennis) in that state. My parents tried to hide it from me somewhat, but I was old enough and mature enough to understand the severity of the situation. I ended up taking in my other siblings, Alex and Chantel, a lot more, showing them the way, making sure they didn't think of it so much. When my parents were always at the hospital, I looked over them a lot."- Erik Gudbranson to NHL.com; April 2010
"He (Gilmour) said I don't know you guys too well, so for the first month we're going to rotate five-game captains.I was fortunate enough to be picked first. It came as a surprise, but I believed that I worked for it and felt ready to take on the challenge. I've always been a leader in the room. I consider myself a leader. I like to show the way for guys. Even if I was one of the younger guys, I like to show them the way anyway. I just go out there, I work hard. It's more your actions, it's not what you say. I just show them the way."- Erik Gudbranson on being a 16-year-old captain, to NHL.com; April, 2010
"When my brother was sick, I made hockey my oasis. I made hockey my place where I could strap on the skates, get on the ice and just not think about what's going on. When I'm on the ice I'm just thinking hockey."- Erik Gudbranson to NHL.com; April, 2010
“Gudbranson would be a fan favorite (in Boston) because he’s big and plays the game hard, but he simply hasn’t played enough hockey this year for me to be comfortable putting him ahead of Fowler, and I don’t think he has his (Fowler’s) offensive game at this stage of his development."- NHL scout to New England Hockey Journal; February, 2010