After a long off-season waiting for an NHL opportunity, forward Brendan Gaunce will have to settle for a season overseas. The 26-year-old forward has signed with the SHL’s Vaxjo Lakers, the team announced. The release quoted Gaunce as stating that his motivation to join the Lakers, who are currently third in the SHL, was the chance to win a Swedish championship, which of course wouldn’t hurt his chances of finding his way back to the NHL next year.
Gaunce may have only played in one NHL game in 2019-20, but the lack of NHL interest is still somewhat surprising. After all, Gaunce was playing for the President’s Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, a club with more than enough depth and talent that didn’t need the veteran forward’s services. Gaunce did record a point in his lone appearance with Boston though and added 37 points in 52 AHL games. He had a similarly impressive output in the minors in 2018-19 and again scored at a point-per-game pace in limited action with the Vancouver Canucks. The 2012 first round pick played in 114 games with Vancouver in the three seasons prior.
A two-way power forward with equally strong offensive and defensive instincts, Gaunce may not have produced points as a regular in the NHL, but has been an effective scorer in the AHL and in his limited NHL opportunities over the past two years. Whereas he likely deserved another shot in the NHL, instead he will head to Sweden where the talent level is arguably even lower than it is in the AHL. Joining Vaxjo, Gaunce will be playing alongside fellow NHL veterans like Christian Folin, Joel Persson, and Viktor Fasth and NHL prospects like Jack Drury and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. Gaunce’s addition to an already talented roster could boost the Lakers up to the SHL’s top spot in the standings and makes them a favorite to win the title this season.