Last year we welcomed Brandon Gormley to the NHL with an overview of his brief pro hockey career. Yet after a brutal training camp (reportedly due to Gormley playing with an injury), the young Arizona Coyotes' defenseman did not make the NHL roster. That caused a little bit of worry among some of our writers to start out the season.
Now Gormley has played three games with the Coyotes in 2014-15 after General Manager Don Maloney promised that Gormley "would get an extended look" at some time this year. In 30 minutes of ice time, Gormley has zero points and four Corsi events at even-strength. The obvious caveat here is that 30 minutes of work spread out over three games is anything but a big enough sample size to make any definitive conclusions, but there are some things to note.
Gormley's ice time has steadily increased in each of his three games; in the first, Gormley played 9:43. In his second game, he played 13:31, and in the third game Gormley played 16:48. Gormley has played 20 shifts (exactly 1/3 of his total) in the third period or overtime. Still, Gormley continues the search for his first NHL point, and as a 1st round pick in 2010, the pressure is starting to mount for Gormley to demonstrate he can be an impact player in the NHL.
Should Gormley Be Better?
Conventional wisdom suggests that defensemen take longer to develop as players than forwards do. The responsibilities differ, the learning curve is steeper, and the physical needs (size over speed) require more time. Yet from a production perspective, the most fruitful ages for NHL defensemen to put up points appear to be fairly early on.
As the graph suggests, the best years for a defenseman in the NHL appear to be between the ages of 20 and 25. Strictly speaking, this is the time in Gormley's career that he should be at his most offensively useful. That can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you view Gormley's effort thus far (either a young man slowly maturing into the NHL or a sliding first rounder heading straight for the dreaded "bust" label). Either way, it is clear that he needs to offer more if he wants to stay in the NHL.
Whether he will get the chance to in Arizona is a different story.
The Prospect Pool
Gormley's slow development, coupled with David Rundblad's two lackluster seasons that resulted in a trade to Chicago, have both managed to thin out what once was a very deep prospect pool on the blueline. From 2006-2011, the Coyotes spent five of their ten first round picks on defensemen (versus four forwards and a goaltender). By itself that does not seem all that imbalanced. So why does it seem like the Coyotes overdrafted the position?
Simple: their forward selections did not pan out. Four of those ten draft selections are no longer a part of the Coyotes organization. Three of those missing players are forwards Kyle Turris, Peter Mueller, and Viktor Tikhonov. Arizona has been snake bitten by injuries/contract disputes at the forward position, and as a result, now find themselves trying to refill the prospect pool.
What Does the Future Hold?
Don Maloney and Dave Tippett are the only two who really know how long Gormley will stay in the NHL this year. One other young player to watch from that same draft class is the New York Rangers' Dylan McIlrath. Drafted three picks above Gormley, McIlrath and Gormley's professional careers have largely played out the same way. It is too early for either player to earn the "bust" label, but Brandon Gormley has a lot to prove and not a lot of time to do it.