Brandon Gormley may not have a definitive “wow” factor, but using a first-round pick on a defenseman may not get any safer.
The native of Prince Edward Island lacks the outstanding speed of Cam Fowler or the punishing physical play of Erik Gudbranson, but he’s also devoid of any kind of glaring weakness that would make one hesitant about drafting him. Any team typically cautious about taking blue liners in the first round, such as the Hurricanes, can select Gormley with the knowledge that he will be a steady player for a long time.
“He does everything well but does not stand out in any one way,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s your prototypical solid two-way defenseman who can contribute on both sides of the puck.”
Gormley, who checks in at 6-foot-2 and 187 pounds, notched nine goals and 34 assists in 58 games with Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this past season. His production stepped up even further in the playoffs, when he tallied 17 points in 21 games in helping his team to a league championship. He then added three points in three games at the Memorial Cup.
Gormley also excelled in his own end. Over the 79 total games he played for Moncton prior to the Memorial Cup, he logged a +48 plus/minus rating that is thought to carry a bit more weight than Fowler’s similarly lofty rating due to the relative lack of production between Moncton and Fowler’s world-beating Windsor squad.
Closer comparisons between Gormley and the other two defensemen at the top of the draft reveal the “rock-paper-scissors” conundrum that teams choosing between them will face. Gormley is not as mobile or as good with the puck as Fowler, but is more physical and more consistent defensively. He’s still not as good as Gudbranson in his own end, but he owns the edge in offensive potential in that individual match-up.
“He gives you a little more of everything than the other defensemen at the top of the draft,” said MacDonald.
Clearly, all three are good players in their own right, and the order of selection may simply depend on personal preference. Despite their differences, one thing is clear – whichever team ends up drafting the last available player among the three will be getting more than a consolation prize. That’s a theme the Hurricanes have noticed throughout the top 15 or so picks in this year’s draft, which seemingly makes No. 7 an awfully good place to be.
“Gormley is a guy that can play all situations but doesn’t stick out as one particular type of defenseman,” said Hurricanes Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos. “His all-around game projects as a guy that’s going to be a top-four defenseman in the league.”