By Thomas Harrington
Brent Gates, Jr. just completed his sophomore year at the University of Minnesota and will be returning there for his junior year this coming season.
Gates’ second year of NCAA hockey was a very successful one. After putting up seven points in 35 games as a freshman, he scored 14 goals and 21 points as a sophomore. Seven of his goals and nine of his points came on the powerplay. Gates finished eighth on the team in points, while his 14 goals were tied for fourth, and of players who took at least 50 shots last season, he led them in shooting percentage by scoring on 16.9% of his shots. He scored his first career NCAA hat trick at the Mariucci Classic at the end of December and was named the third star of the week in the Big Ten.
A year ago, my number one priority for Gates was him upping his offensive production, and that’s exactly what he did. He tripled his point production, while increasing his goal total by almost five times what he did in his freshman year. His increase in production saw him get a lot of time on the team’s powerplay, and he finished eighth on the team in powerplay scoring, a pretty big step up for a player who didn’t score any powerplay points as a freshman.
This coming season, Gates will be a junior at Minnesota, and I’d like to see his offensive production continue to rise. While his point totals won’t increase at the same rate, he should be able to at least hit the 15 goal and 30 point marks this coming year. Besides his offensive production, I’d like to see Gates improve his work in the faceoff circle. He’s listed as a center, but only took 10 draws this past season and lost them all. In his freshman season, he won two faceoffs and lost two. While there are plenty of centers who end up preferring to play the wing in the NHL, if he can become a solid player at both wing and center, he’ll be that much more valuable to the Ducks when he turns pro. Also, if he is able to play both positions well, it will help him as he tries to make it to the NHL.
Gates will spend at least one more season in the NCAA, if not two. He could try and turn pro in a year, but I think that it’s more likely he spends all four years in college. While a number of players turn pro sooner than that, the Ducks have been patient with some of their recent college draft picks, like Kevin Roy and Andy Welinski, who both spent four years in college before turning pro and joining the San Diego Gulls. I think that Gates follows a similar path, but, if he can have a great junior season, he could turn pro at the end of next year.
After Gates turns pro, he’ll likely spend some time in the AHL before he looks to make the jump to the NHL. Similar to Roy and Welinski, I think he’ll get at least a full year with San Diego before he makes Anaheim’s roster. He could be a solid second or third line player someday, but the Ducks have enough depth in the NHL and AHL to let their prospects take their time and mature at their own pace. With that in mind, it will probably be three or four years before we see him in an Anaheim jersey.
Gates has yet to sign his entry level contract, and the Ducks will hold his rights through his college career. Assuming he continues to develop, the Ducks should be offering him an ELC when he’s done in the NCAA.
My next prospect update will be on Jaycob Megna.
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August 12th, 2017