Could the Calgary Flames select small but versatile college forward Gavin Brindley?

Photo credit:courtesy Michigan Photography
Ryan Pike
1 year ago
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In the recent history of the Calgary Flames, their skilled players haven’t been particularly big and their big players haven’t been particularly skilled. In the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft, the Flames will have their choice of a bunch of pretty skilled players.
One that’s quite skilled, but a bit on the smaller side, is University of Michigan winger Gavin Brindley.

Scouting report

Brindley is an October 2004 birthday, which makes him one of the oldest first-time draft eligible players in the 2023 class. He was born in Estero, Florida while he dad, Ryan, was playing with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades. (Ryan retired in 2007.) The younger Brindley is listed at 5’9″ and 157 pounds, and he’s a right shot winger.
Brindley came up through minor hockey in Florida, then joined the United States Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm for two seasons. (He played with Flames prospects Arsenii Sergeev and Ilya Nikolaev in 2021-22.) He also spent some time with the U.S. National Development Program before heading to the University of Michigan as a true freshman in 2022-23.
Dobber Prospects’ Hadi Kalakeche wrote this scouting report:
Brindley excels in so many areas, one is bound to hit and make him a valuable NHLer. He has playmaking skill and hands for days but doesn’t default to any particular set-in-stone habit or skill. He cuts to the inside with both fearlessness and calculated timing, setting himself up for prime-ice puck touches regularly. When his skills and habits don’t suffice to make him a positive-impact winger, he can also track back with tremendous backward skating and get involved in defensive plays to cover for an aggressive defender. His stick angling makes him surprisingly good at defending the rush in those circumstances.  In Brindley, a team is getting one of the best defensive forwards in the class, with enough skill and projectability to top out as a very solid, very versatile second-line winger.
Over at Smaht Scouting, Austin Garret contributed this assessment:
Gavin Brindley plays the game of hockey exactly how I’d want a player to play. He’s got great speed and very good edges. He was the primary transition player on a line that included Adam Fantilli and Rutger McGroarty for the second half of the year. His lack of point production to start the year was bad puck luck, as he was a great dangerous shot generator and facilitated play extremely well as he earned the second line starting center role on one of the best teams in college hockey. When Fantilli was brought on his line he was able to showcase being a facilitator to two great shooters, and he was rewarded with a positive regression in his point production. He has tremendous awareness on the ice and his ability to read plays and position himself offensively and defensively to continuously make an impact won over my adoration. The only real fault I have in his game is his lack of strength when going by players in the interior of the zone, but with a few years in college and his high-end motor, I don’t see this as a reason to drop him in the rankings but rather just an elongated timeline to get to the NHL compared to other players in the top 10. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brindley as a Hobey finalist before his collegiate career is over.
Is Brindley big? Nope. Is he going to fill out a bit? Sure! Is he ever going to be a big physical specimen? Probably not. But he was a very effective player in the USHL and so far he’s been a very effective player in the NCAA. It’s probably a bit normal to be skeptical about if he can translate everything he does against grown-ass men in the NHL, but he’s already doing it against some fairly physically mature collegiate opponents, so his success shouldn’t be completely discounted.

The numbers

In his freshman year with the University of Michigan, Brindley had 12 goals and 26 assists for 38 points in 41 games. He was a bit cold offensively early in the season – several scouts noted he generated chances but his linemates couldn’t bury them – but he took off offensively in the second half… when he began playing with Adam Fantilli, who’s amazing at burying scoring chances.
Brindley’s 38 points placed him tied with several other collegiate players for 30th nationally. He was second among first-time draft eligible NCAA players, behind only Fantilli.
Brindley represented the United States at the World Juniors, where he had four points in seven games and helped the Americans win bronze. He was one of three first-time draft eligible players on the American World Junior team.

Availability and fit

There’s a lot to like about Brindley. He’s smart! He’s good in all three zones! His underlying numbers are reportedly very good, what with having the puck a lot and creating many scoring chances. And he’s a prominent player playing with a strong NCAA program who will have the chance to fill out physically. But he’s smaller than average, which could cause a bit of hand-wringing for the Flames’ scouts. (To be fair, there’s a slight bias against smallish players across the board, not just with the Flames.)
Based on the scouting consensus, Brindley will likely be available at 16th overall. FC Hockey ranks him 15th, McKeen’s at 26th, Sportsnet at 30th, Daily Faceoff at 31st, Scott Wheeler at 24th and Corey Pronman at 29th. It likely wouldn’t be see as the Flames “reaching” for him too early, though, as there’s a wild lack of scouting consensus after the first 10 or 12 players in this draft class. From 13 onward, there’s a chance that just about anybody (from a group of about 20-25 players) could have their name called.

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