Coming in at number 13 on the 2021 RawCharge Top 25 Under 25 is center Gage Goncalves. A 2020 2nd round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Goncalves was drafted as an overage player. In his rookie season in the WHL, which was also his draft season, of 2018-19, Goncalves recorded a goal and 15 points in 67 games, which wasn’t enough production to get him on the radar for scouts.
In 2019-20 though, Goncalves moved up the line up for the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and broke out offensively with 33 goals and 71 points, both marks that were 2nd on the Silvertips behind fellow overager Bryce Kindopp. Getting over that point per game mark put him on the radar for the Lightning scouts and led to him being selected 62nd overall by the Lightning.
With last season being weird and with a lot of roadblocks before it could get underway in the WHL, Goncalves started the season with the Syracuse Crunch getting into two games and recording an assist before heading back to Everett. With the Silvertips, he wore an A as an Alternate Captain and recorded 12 goals and 34 points in 23 games. His 12 goals were second on the team, he led the team with 22 assists, and tied for the team lead in points with team goal-leader Cole Fonstad.
The Lightning didn’t wait long to sign Goncalves to an entry-level contract, signing him on December 13th, 2020 just two months after the conclusion of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Now that he is 20 years-old, he will move full time into the professional ranks with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL for the coming season.
Goncalves plays a responsible 200-foot game and has some offensive upside at the pro level. He has a solid shot and scores a lot from the slot and the net front area. He competes for the puck well and plays hard at both ends of the ice. He has NHL size at 6’1” and was listed at 184 pounds by the Everett Silvertips, but has also been listed at 170 pounds elsewhere. He could stand to put on some more muscle to his frame, as most young prospects can.
One of the bigger knocks on Goncalves is that his skating needs work. The Lightning seem to have taken quite a few players in the draft recently where that is one of the drawbacks with them, and the organization obviously thinks that Barb Underhill is a magician that can fix just about any skating problem if the player buys into the program. And we’ve heard that Goncalves is a hard worker.
For Goncalves to make it to the NHL, he’s going to need to continue to show his offensive abilities with the Syracuse Crunch as well as continuing to refine his defensive game. His most likely role at the top level is as a bottom six forward, potentially as a center being shifted to the wing. If my depth chart guesses are right, I believe that Goncalves will start the season as the Crunch’s third line center. I’ll be looking for him to get some power play time on the second unit to take advantage of his solid one-timer, as well as penalty kill time in preparation for his eventual NHL role.
For the number people out there, Goncalves wore #39 with the Everett Silvertips and wore #39 in his two games for the Crunch so I expect he’ll continue to wear that number. If he makes it to the NHL with the Lightning and wears #39, he would be the 6th player to wear it for the team and the first since Anders Lindback in 2013-14.
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