Few Canadian players play for their hometown major junior team, but defenseman Josh Gorges did just that starting in 2000-01, playing for the Kelowna Rockets.
After a fair rookie season, Gorges put up an impressive 42 points in 72 games for the Rockets in 2001-02 as well as eight points in 15 playoff games. However, after establishing himself as Kelowna’s top defenseman, Gorges went unpicked in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Opportunity came knocking at the San Jose Sharks training camp in 2002, and the Sharks signed the small defenseman to a contract Sept. 20.
Missing 17 games due to a torn MCL, the first major injury of Gorges’ career, Gorges still managed to tally 11 goals and 48 assists for the B.C. Division champs. The Rockets went on to win the WHL Championship, with Gorges adding three goals and 17 assists. Memorial Cup play did not go as well for the Rockets, as the team finished fourth in the four team tournament, meaning Kelowna’s assistant captain had work to do for 2003-04.
Captain of the Rockets in 2003-04, Gorges lead a less offensively gifted Rockets team to the WHL regular season championship, contributing 11 goals and 31 points over 62 games. Gorges’ playoffs were more impressive than his regular season point-wise, with 15 points in 17 games, but the Rockets were eliminated in the semifinals by the Everett Silvertips. Still in the Memorial Cup as the host team, the two-week rest allowed Kelowna to prepare extensively, with Gorges’ Rockets winning the Memorial Cup. Named the Rockets top defenseman, Gorges was also named the Western Conference Defenseman of the Year as well as a WHL First Team All-Star.
Gorges’ season was also highlighted by his first appearance with the Canadian national team, playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Finland. Although Team Canada lost the gold medal game to Team USA on a fluke play, Gorges finished the tournament with a +8 rating, tied with Shawn Belle for the highest rating among all Team Canada defensemen.
Despite being only 6'0" 180 pounds, Gorges does like to play the physical game. A solid two-way defenseman at the WHL level, Gorges is undersized by NHL standards.
A solid skater with adequate speed, Gorges is a good puckmoving defenseman who's effective on the power play with a decent point shot and playmaking abilities.
A hard-working player with intensity, Gorges can verbally or by example.
Despite a willingness to play the physical game, a lack of size will likely prevent Gorges from becoming more than a fourth or fifth defenseman who's able to fill in higher if needed.