With the 62nd overall pick of 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Gage Goncalves, center, from the Everett Silvertips. Goncalves is an overage selection after he was passed over in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. At 6’0” and 165 pounds, Goncalves has good height, but needs to fill out his frame.
Looking at his 2018-19 season, it’s easy to see why Goncalves did not get selected. In 67 games, he only managed to score one goal and 15 points. That’s not enough production to get a player noticed in the CHL leagues, even though he did put up two goals and six points in ten playoff games. His 2019-20 season, however, was a breakthrough with him posting 33 goals and 71 points in 60 games played.
Goncalves was ranked anywhere from 73 to completely unranked, because it’s often a bit of a crapshoot with overagers for how they’ll be valued by NHL scouting staffs. HockeyProspects.com and their Black Book had him unranked and listed as a “Do Not Draft” player.
They do however describe him as a well rounded, 200-foot center. They also gave him above average marks for Compete. He’s not afraid to go to the slot and the front of the net, with the Black Book guessing that around 80% of his goals came from the net area and low slot. One concern is that 14 of his goals came on the power play, and you’d like to see more of his goal scoring coming at even strength to really demonstrate his skill and shot without the man advantage.
Something that stands out in the report is that he is a high effort player that has the same compete level in the defensive zone as he does in the offensive zone. With how the Lightning have trended, especially for their depth forwards, he sounds like the kind of player they want to add. His skating is a question mark and is what could keep him from making the NHL.
EliteProspects was a little kinder to Goncalves, ranking him 73rd. Mitch Brown of EliteProspects particularly likes his one-timer and cross-slot passing on the power play. Their scouts also believe his skating, while an issue, can be fixed.
Rhys Jessop also had this to say about Goncalves.
Subjectively, I love Gage Goncalves. Late on physical dev curve, works his absolute ass off, and is very very smart. Skill improved this season.— Rhys Jessop (@Thats_Offside) October 7, 2020
This is too soon for him imo. Think he can work his way into a bottom-6 C role, but limited value here at this point.
Jessop’s description of Goncalves certainly fits with the way I think the Lightning have wanted to go in their bottom six. Hard worker. Smart. Plays defense. Hard to play against. Maybe this was a bit early for him, but the Lightning have never been afraid of taking the guy they like, and he does seem to have the attributes that the scouting staff particularly likes in a player.
As Rhys said, a bottom six center role is his ceiling. He’ll need to work on his skating (paging Barb Underhill), and everything else that we usually say about a forward coming out of the CHL leagues. If he can also hang on to some of that offensive skill and translate it into the NHL, he could also see time on the second power play. Especially if his one-timer can continue to improve and give the Lightning a Kucherov Lite on the second unit.
Goncalves will spend another year in the WHL before he’s eligible to turn pro and continue his development in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch.