5'9 left wing Yanni Gourde gets compared to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson quite a bit, due to their similar heights, playing style, and passion. This must feel like both a complement and a challenge to Gourde, who, much like Johnson, also went undrafted. After starting the 2013-2014 season bouncing between the ECHL and the AHL with the Worcester Sharks, Gourde was tasked by Tampa Bay with infusing life into a struggling Syracuse and was signed by the Lightning on March 10th, 2014. He was given an AHL contract for the remainder of the season, which then transitioned to a two-way NHL contract for the following two seasons.
Although Gourde chipped in admirably during the AHL portion of his contract, netting 8 points during his first month with Syracuse, not enough was known about him going into last summer to get a ranking on our list. However, after a banner year with the Crunch, Gourde now comes in at number 22.
Here's how the panel ranked Yanni Gourde:
|Kyle Alexander||John Fontana||Mike Gallimore||GeoFitz4||Brett Frieman|
Previous ranks: N/A
Gourde spent the first part of his career with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, during which he built a solid argument for attention to himself, especially during the 2011-12 season. He led the QMJHL in scoring that season, posting 37 goals and 124 points. Those totals led to him being named the league MVP. His efforts were enough to get him noticed by the San Jose Sharks organization, who signed him to an AHL contract. His AHL totals with Worcester weren't completely encouraging - he had 13 goals and 42 points in 83 games over three AHL seasons - but the Lightning clearly saw something in Gourde, and brought him aboard.
This past season with Syracuse, Gourde was the only player to suit up for all of the Crunch's 76 regular season games and their three playoff appearances. He finished the season second on the Crunch in points, with only Jonathan Marchessault ahead of him. He amassed 57 points and scored 29 goals. He also finished the season with a +13, which was the highest +/- among Crunch forwards and second only to J.P. Cote's +14 overall.
It's obvious that Gourde was one of the most consistent players on the Crunch's roster last season, and Syracuse will be looking to him to provide that same amount of consistency again this fall. It's expected that Gourde will continue to be a go-to man for the Crunch, especially with Marchessault's waiver eligibility muddying the waters. Gourde has one year left on his initial contract with the Lightning, so his main goal should be continuing to impress at the AHL level so that he can snag all of the NHL minutes he can should a recall be required.