Welcome to the 1st installment of our 'Names To Know', 2023 edition, a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.
The Blue Jackets have two first-round draft picks—No. 3 and No. 22–giving the club an opportunity to solidify their core in a deep first round.
Today we're looking at Gavin Brindley.
A right-wing from the University of Michigan, Brindley scored 38 points (12 goals, 26 assists) in his first college season in 2022-23. In the 2023 World Juniors, he scored four points (one goal, three assists) in seven games for the U.S.
Part of that elite Michigan squad that made it to the Frozen Four, Brindley played with Hobey Baker winner, Adam Fantilli, likely the No. 2 pick in June, and Rutger McGroarty, who was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in 2022. Brindley and Fantilli were the youngest players in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.
At 5-foot-9, Brindley's size might cause teams to be wary of the 18-year-old. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler ranked him 24th and provided his scouting report in May:
Brindley’s a plus-level skater who gets through his extensions quickly (including from a standstill), excels on his edges, rounds corners sharply, and darts around the ice, hunting pucks and pushing through holes.
He’s also got some of the quicker hands and better touch on this list. He thrives in the small-area game, using light passes and rapid movements to play in and out of coverage. He has now impressed me wherever I’ve watched him (NCAA, USHL, Five Nations, U18 worlds, world juniors, etc.) as a small but highly involved forward who plays the game with energy and pace, making little skill plays between coverage. He buzzes around the ice and does such a good job releasing from one battle or chance to hunting or getting open for the next one. He’s always moving. He’ll make the soft play to the middle of the ice from the perimeter, or go there to get to rebounds or position himself on screens/tips. He’s excellent in puck protection twisting away from coverage to make things happen along the boards. And he just always seems to play well, no matter the role/usage/stage. And the beauty of Brindley’s game is that while he may prove talented enough to play in a skill role at the NHL level, he’s got the approach/tools to play an effective bottom-six game too. That will limit concerns about his height (he has certainly never played small).
Michigan head coach Brandon Naurato spoke about Brindley in March.
"Brindley might have the highest motor in college hockey," Naurato said. "If there's a most improved player award on our team, it would be him.
"He's taken such a huge step. He's always been a key member of the team. He's on the PK, he's on the power play, he's playing top-six minutes.
"We forget sometimes, guys like him and (Fantilli) are seniors in high school. And they're playing against 22, 23, 24, 25-year-old men in college hockey and doing what they're doing. It's extremely impressive.
"(Brindley) is special. He's special and I think he's proven that to people. He's been a big, big part of our team."
.@umichhockey hockey coach Brandon Naurato joined the @NHL Draft Class podcast for a deep dive on top forward prospects Adam Fantilli and Gavin Brindley.— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) March 23, 2023
Spotify: https://t.co/R1ncdKmjOF pic.twitter.com/HoFR5lCKib
Brindley is an elite skater and great driver of possession who will take the puck to the net.
Although teams might not like Brindley's 5-foot-9 frame, there are a number of NHL stars like 5-foot-8 Tyler Johnson with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Blue Jackets' own Johnny Gaudreau at 5-foot-9 and Nick Blankenburg, Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, forward Blake Lizotte of the Los Angeles Kings, Yanni Gourde of the Seattle Kraken, and Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand to name a few.
Fresh off the World Juniors, Brindley had an eight-game point streak (seven goals, eight assists) and had 28 of his 38 points (11 goals, 17 assists) on the season in the second half of the season.
|My NHL Draft||29th|
|Tankathon||22nd * To Columbus|