2009-10: Brendan Gaunce led all of Ontario midget AAA in scoring playing for the Markham Waxers. In 86 games he scored 55 goals with 93 assists. Gaunce was selected by the Belleville Bulls in the 1st round (2nd overall) of the 2010 OHL Priority Draft.
2010-11: Gaunce skated in 65 games for Belleville as an OHL rookie and represented Ontario in the 2011 U17 World Hockey Challenge. He scored 11 goals with 25 assists and had 40 penalty minutes. Gaunce was minus-31 on a Belleville team that won just 21 games and gave up 97 more goals than it scored. In the Bulls four-game first-round series with Mississauga St. Michael’s he was minus-3 with 4 penalty minutes. Gaunce scored 2 goals with 1 assist and had 18 penalty minutes in five games for Ontario at the WHC.
2011-12: Gaunce was the leading scorer for Belleville in his second season and represented Canada at the 2012 U18 World Junior Championship. In 68 games he scored 28 goals with 40 assists and was plus-4 with 68 penalty minutes. Belleville was much-improved; finishing second behind the Ottawa 67’s in the East Division. In the playoff series with Ottawa he skated in all six games and was minus-2 with 1 goal and 2 assists. . Gaunce scored 3 goals with 1 assist and was plus-4 with 8 penalty minutes in seven games for bronze-medal winning Canada at the U18 WJC. Gaunce was ranked 13th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings prior to the 2012 NHL Draft.
2012-13: Signed to a three-year, entry-level contract by Vancouver in August of 2012, Gaunce returned to juniors and was a team captain and the second-leading scorer for Belleville in his third OHL season. He scored 33 goals with 27 assists and was +10 with 44 penalty minutes in 60 regular season games. Belleville finished first in the East Division and lost to Barrie in a seven-game series in the Eastern Conference finals. Gaunce scored 8 goals with 14 assists in 17 playoff games and was +8 with 10 penalty minutes. In August 2013 he skated for Canada’s U20 team at the summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid.
2013-14: Gaunce attended Canada’s U20 evaluation camp in August and was with the Canucks in training camp before returning to Belleville for his fourth OHL season. He was a team captain and skated in 22 games for the Bulls before being acquired by Erie in exchange for defenseman Stephen Harper and three draft picks at the end of November 2013. In 65 regular season games between the two teams he scored 31 goals with 41 assists and was +25 (+30 with Erie) with 59 penalty minutes. Erie finished second to eventual Memorial Cup runner-up Guelph in the Midwest Division and lost to the Storm in the Western Conference finals. Gaunce scored 5 goals with 11 assists and was +4 with 16 penalty minutes in 14 playoff games. He skated for the OHL all-stars in the Subway Series against Russia with no points nor penalties in two games.
Gaunce is a bit of an in-betweener as a prospect. He has the size and body type of a power forward but doesn't play a combative style. He has been able to put points up at the junior level when surrounded by talented players, and has a big shot, but he is not a pure scorer and his skating and technical skills are not considered elite. To succeed at the pro level he will need to pay keen attention to the defensive zone and win most of the puck battles along the boards and in small spaces. He has shown some promise in his first pro season but is still a project at this point.
Gaunce will be counted on to make a bigger contribution to the Utica Comets in 2015-16. He had a strong rookie season as a 20 year old and should be able to handle greater responsibilities. A strong two-way player with some scoring ability, he should improve his offense numbers and be used in all situations. Long-term he may not become the dominant forward envisioned when he was a first-round draft pick. But his progress to this point suggests Gaunce can be an effective two-way player and team leader who can be valuable as a checking line center and penalty killing specialist. His offensive output suggests there could be some upside in that area though it will not be the focus of his game.