The Avalanche prospect, coming off a strong 2008-09 season with the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League, didn’t take much of a break this summer before beginning preparations for the 2009-10 campaign.
Upon a recommendation from the Avalanche staff, Gaunce recently spent six weeks in Denver to train with the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Paul Goldberg, in hopes of seeing continued improvement in his physical fitness level. In turn, the defensemen hopes the many hours he’s spent in the gym will help his game continue to progress on the ice.
“They thought I should come to Denver and see (Goldberg) for a while. I agreed, because if they want me to do something, I’m more than willing,” said Gaunce, who will participate in Canada’s National Junior Team Development Camp beginning this Wednesday in Saskatoon, Sask.
“They know what they want me to work on, and this way I’m able to have their trainer work with me to become a better player. Goldy has been doing this for over a decade, and his methods have proven to work. There’s no better way to go about it than to go right to the source.”
Getting a jump start on his fellow prospects, Gaunce arrived in Denver approximately one month before Colorado’s 2009 development camp in July, a move prompted by his desire to get a leg up on other players both at the camp and in the upcoming OHL season.
July’s development camp wasn’t Gaunce’s first go-round at the annual event, as he also participated in the 2008 version shortly after being drafted. It was there that he first saw the type of commitment it takes to make it to the next level. After learning about proper nutrition, exercise habits, interval training and how to take care of his body, the 6-foot-1, 183-pound blueliner took those lessons home and continued training the proper way throughout the 2008-09 season.
With new training habits and a fresh outlook on how to approach the game, Gaunce enjoyed a breakout season last year in Mississauga. He was named to the OHL’s Second All-Star Team after recording 64 points (17g/47a) in 67 games for the Majors, a total that ranked fifth among league defensemen.
In addition, the rearguard finished third in voting for the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league’s most outstanding defenseman.
“I feel the off-ice training I did last summer helped, and I was able to continue it throughout the season,” said the Sudbury, Ontario native. “I was in much better shape and was able to use my smarts and intelligence a lot more because I was able to do things at the same pace as everyone else. I benefited a lot more from my intelligence and how I think the game.”
The fruits of his labor were also on display when Gaunce came into this year’s development camp with a more chiseled physique and in better overall condition. The numbers from his test results simply confirmed what he already suspected.
“I improved a lot in everything in terms of fitness training,” said Gaunce. “I had been working out, but not in the right way. I learned a lot during last year’s camp and I’ve improved in many aspects.”
During his time in Denver this summer, Gaunce also kept a keen eye on the 2009 NHL Entry Draft to see which players might someday become his teammates in Colorado.
“I watched all of it actually. I went to a local restaurant and they had it on, but they didn’t have the volume on. I was upset, because I need to hear everything when I’m watching the draft,” said Gaunce. “Eventually I went back to the hotel and watched the rest of round 1 online. I also watched the entire day on Saturday.”
And the defenseman was pleased with what he saw. Having played with and against many of Colorado’s 2009 draft picks in the OHL, All-Star games and international competitions, he knew the level of talent they would bring to the organization.
“I thought they had an unbelievable draft. Obviously, picking up Matt Duchene
was huge, but I was really surprised that both Stefan Elliott
and Ryan O’Reilly were left,” said Gaunce. “I thought the team did a very good job and also addressed every position by drafting a couple of very good goaltenders later in the draft. Plus, adding another very good player in Tyson Barrie
Those draft picks added to Colorado’s stable of talented young prospects, a group that Gaunce is proud to be a part of.
And with his work ethic and willingness to do whatever it takes – whether it’s on or off the ice, in the middle of the season or during the summer – Gaunce is hoping that extra effort will pay off with an even better season in 2009-10.