Could Gage Goncalves break training camp with the Tampa Bay Lightning this fall? It’s not completely out of the question that the second-year professional could fill one of the spots left open by Anthony Cirelli’s rehab from shoulder surgery.
Goncalves was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft by the Lightning in his overage season (hence the Overage Gage nickname). In 151 Western Hockey League games with the Everett Silvertips he put up 46 goals and 74 assists, on a whole not overly impressive numbers. However, those numbers were pulled down by a lackluster first season. Over his final two seasons he played in 83 games and put up 45 goals and 60 assists, well over a point-per-game pace.
In his first season with the Syracuse Crunch, the left-hand shot showed that he has the potential to be a middle-six forward that provides solid defensive play while also being able to put the puck in the back of the net. He scored in his professional debut and had four goals in his first eight games.
Unfortunately he then went into a 17-game goalless drought and was in and out of the line-up. Much like the rest of the Crunch he found his groove in late February. In March he posted 6 goals and 4 assists in 14 games for his best month of the season.
Goncalves has a NHL-caliber shot and the ability to get to the front of the net and score. At 6’1” and 170 lbs. he has the size to fight off opponents for loose pucks. Defensively he reads the play very well and harasses the opposing puck carrier diligently. That responsibility in his own zone is a positive asset in the Lightning organization.
Like a lot of prospects, his skating isn’t his strongest trait, but it has been improving. Working with Barb Underhill and Tracy Tutton he has found a little more speed and power in his stride that has helped his game out. Better skating could facilitate a move back to the middle of the ice, as he played most of last season on the left wing.
In all likelihood he will start the season he will start the season in Syracuse on one of the top two lines. He will have to show a little more consistency throughout the season, but with another strong season he should be a viable injury call-up this year and a possible Alex Killorn replacement next year. If he continues to develop he should be a middle-six forward that can put up 15-20 goals while seeing a little time on the power play.
The readers were super high on his performance, ranking him fourth overall in the organization. The writers were a little more cautious, with a consensus ranking of ninth. Individually we all had him between eight and ten on our lists. The strong season allowed him to jump up from his ranking of 13 in 2021.
Gage Goncalves bangs home the rebound for his 17th goal of the AHL season! Nick Perbix and Maxim Cajkovic pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/0SD0DBTkwZ— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) May 1, 2022
Here he finds the soft spot in front of the net behind the defense, controls the rebound and pokes it home.
Simon Ryfors buries it home through the five hole for his 10th goal of the AHL season! Gage Goncalves and Riley Nash pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/jkpPiI86ls— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) April 25, 2022
Goncalves picks up an assist here by anticipating where Simon Ryfors is going to go and makes a quick, backhand pass to the spot between two defenders.
Gage Goncalves snaps home the game winning goal for his 16th goal of the AHL season! Nick Perbix and Alex Barre-Boulet pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/mRcgGaGpxM— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) April 9, 2022
Here’s a prime example of how well his wrist shot plays in game action. While he is shooting from a good scoring spot, the goaltender has a pretty clear view of the shot and it still beats him.
Gage Goncalves puts it home on the doorstep for his 6th goal of the AHL season! Ryan Jones and Andrej Sustr pick up the assists. pic.twitter.com/hJa8Pvicey— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) February 3, 2022
Another goal front effort from Goncalves.
Gage Goncalves picks up speed on the rush and snaps one home for his 5th goal of the AHL season! That’s a big goal for the rookie as he snaps a long scoring slump. Alex Green picks up the assist. pic.twitter.com/syEIdjlCzG— Future Bolts (@LightningProsp1) January 23, 2022
Here is an example of his better skating and excellent shot. Again, this is a shot a goaltender should stop, but it’s by him before he can react.