Gudbranson; A falling star?
Every year, at the ripe old age of 18, junior hockey players push themselves as hard as they can for one sole purpose, to get drafted into the NHL. A player’s main goal is to get drafted either first, second or third so that he may get a chance to play right away in the NHL to help a struggling team.
Every year the first, second and third overall drafted players do in fact play in the big leagues right away. But, as we look at 2010, this has changed. Both Hall and Seguin impressed in camp, but third overall Erik Gudbranson, who was picked by the struggling Florida Panthers, did not make the move to the NHL, despite making the team out of training camp.
Reasoning behind this? He felt he was better than the money which the Panthers Organization placed before him. He thought that his skill level, and what he could bring to the Panthers club, was much more superior then what his new team thought.
To many Panthers fans, it came as a surprise to hear Gudbranson’s name called third overall in the Entry Draft, as many thought that Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars or Ryan Johansen of the Portland Winterhawks would be selected to help address their goal scoring needs.
It was also a surprise, seeing as Gudbranson missed 27 games of the regular season due to mononucleosis. Many scouts knew he was good, but due to missing so much time, it was questioned if he was actually better than Cam Fowler of the Windsor Spitfires.
When training camp rolled around, and the Panthers opened pre-season play, many people still questioned the play of Gudbranson, but he stepped up his play, and impressed the coaching staff, but they still were not confident enough to dish out the money which Erik desired, so he left the Panthers and returned to juniors.
Erik was selected to represent Canada in the 2010/11 IIHF world junior championship. He had a good tournament picking up five points, as he played a big role on the Canadian blue line, a team which went into the tournament not expecting to score many goals. But, in the final game against the Russians, Gudbranson’s play began to fall apart. He started to show that he does not perform well in key situations and cracks under pressure. No Canadian will ever forget the great collapse of the Canadian squad as they were up 3-0 after 2 periods and lost 5-3. Well, despite nobody pointing fingers, the go ahead goal is all because of Gudbranson, as he lost the puck in his own end. Then, as Vladimir Tarasenko went behind the net, Gudbranson did not follow him, nor did he place pressure on him, as Tarasenko flipped the puck out front to Artemi Panarin who put it past Mark Visentin for the 4-3 lead.
Now, almost a month later reports have surfaced that Gudbranson has been suspended for eight-games by the OHL for a dirty hit on Oshawa Generals J.P. LaBardo. It is no doubt a dirty his, as it was a retaliation after LaBardo elbowed Kingston Frontenacs’ goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Gudbranson can be seen leaving his feet as he hurls himself at LaBardo.
“The suspension is the result of a charge on J.P. Labardo,” said OHL vice-president Ted Baker in a statement released by the league. “Eric left his feet, and the hit was in retribution for a hit that Labardo had just delivered to Kingston goalie Philipp Grubauer.”
This however is the second suspension for Gudbranson in as many weeks. His own team, the Kingston Frontenacs, suspended the third-overall pick one game for internal issue last week.
This, troubles me as a Panthers fan, as Gudbranson’s value, and good attitude seems to become weaker and weaker as time passes on. It appears as the Panthers Organization did the right thing by holding off on giving Erik the money which he sought after.
But, the thing which worries me the most is the question whether we have another Alexandre Daigle on our hands. Questions arise as to have we wasted our third overall selection swirl in my head.
The only thing I can do, is hope that Erik will settle down, and start to get his game back on track, as he has seven goals and 18 points in 29 games this season. Hopefully, he will play to the potential equivalent to the money which he had asked for, and become a key player for our organization.
Personally, I do think Gudbranson will pick up his play, as he has a lot of time to think about his play, and focus on getting back to his original self, and he is no doubt a great player after all. But, my question is, do you think he can regain his form, and play like a third overall pick is expected to play like?
The video clearly shows the dirty hit preformed by Gudbranson in slow motion.