#3. Erik Gudbranson | D | Kingston (OHL)
Date of Birth: January 7th, 1992 Height: 6.03 Weight: 199lbs. Shoots: R Season Statistics: Regular Season | 41GP 2G 21A 23P 68PIM Playoffs | 7GP 1G 2A 3P 6PIM TSR Midterm Rank: 4 | Position Rank: 1st Defensemen League Rank: 3rd OHL | Country Rank: 3rd Canada
Erik Gudbranson is a player that flew under the radar a bit as a 16 year old rookie with the Kingston Frontenacs a season ago. While the focus shifted away from the imposing defender a season ago, the spotlight has shifted his way this year as he has steadily worked his way into the elite group of prospects in the 2010 crop.
He was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection, although there was a consensus among some that he could have very well contended for top honours. Needless to say, Gudbranson was put in a difficult situation with a rebuilding Frontenacs squad, but managed to make the most of the situation. While his 22 point season probably didn’t marvel a lot of casual fans, his strong play was impressive for a rookie, and his leadership skills and maturity even earned him a brief stint as the team’s captain despite being only 16 years old.
His season culminated in an impressive showing as the captain of the Under 17 team, as well as a spot on the Under 18 team as an underager. He went on to help be an integral part of Canada’s gold medal winning team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Tournament as well. After starting to thrust himself into the upper echelon of the class, there were high expectations for Gudbranson this year, and for the most part he lived up to them.
While most would have liked to see his offensive game have some more refinement this season, he did make considerable progress in his game. Gudbranson is a very good skater for his size and has the ability to move the puck on his own. He’s got a good head for the game and is effective in transition as well. Defensively, he competes hard and uses his body effectively, although he could stand to be a bit more nasty.
The up front package oozes potential. His offensive numbers certainly won’t blow you away, but there is potential for growth. Gudbranson saw second pairing powerplay minutes for the most part last season, and hasn’t quite had the opportunity to really play that style of game. He has a tremendous shot and does a very good job of sneaking it through traffic, which indicates that given more minutes, his game should mature in that aspect.
The biggest component to consider with Gudbranson is gauging his potential. He has a good skill set right now, and he’s a tremendous person to have in your dressing room, but there’s a lot of risk that he won’t translate into an elite defender at the NHL level. That’s where the question of potential comes in. Gudbranson is a big guy, who’s very mobile and has a lot of raw skills and all of the attributes that might help him be a franchise defenseman one day. It’s a risk that a team is going to have to calculate as best they can, because on the plus they might be getting an elite two-way defenseman who can captain their team, while on the negative, they might be burning a Top 5 pick on a guy who fails to ever be a reliable Top 3 guy.
Pros: Skating, Leadership/Maturity, Competitiveness
Cons: Needed offensive development, Consistency
Skillset comparison: Shea Weber