Gavin Brindley's "skating and hockey mind" driving under the radar success at Michigan
That suits Brindley just fine, though. He's been happy with the way he's adjusted to the rigours of the NCAA level, whether he's the one getting the headlines or otherwise. It's the perfect environment for his development, as far as he's concerned.
“The jump from AAA to the USHL was a lot harder. I was 15 playing against 21-year-olds when I came out of AAA. When you are around so many good players it helps you so much. The college-level guys are high-end, and all the coaches want to do is help you,” Brindley told EP Rinkside. “College is more for development I would say rather than playing junior hockey in Canada.
“The development is unbelievable for kids like me. You play in 36 games, not counting playoffs. You have all day to develop as much as you want.”
The time he spent playing for the NTDP made the transition easier for Brindley. Based on how he’s playing, it’s hard to argue against that.
“The opportunity has been unbelievable. We have a big freshman class. It’s important for our freshmen to step up and take a big role with the team,” Brindley stated. “Our success lately has been our seniors taking the reins and showing us the way. I think the upperclassmen have done a great job taking me under their wing and showing us how it’s done.”
The chemistry that Brindley has formed with Rutger McGroarty is one great example, an extension of some of the time they shared at the program. McGroarty was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets with the 14th overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
“Me and Rut have played against each other pretty much our whole lives in AAA and then played together for a little while at the program. We’re used to going up against each other,” Brindley said. “We play a lot of good hockey minutes together, and it’s just clicked. When they throw us together it means a lot. I think we feed off each other well. It’s great playing with him. He’s an awesome hockey player, and I’m grateful for that.”
Brindley has a mix of good play in his arsenal. So far, his passing ability has been shining through at Michigan.
“I wouldn’t say I am a pass-first guy, but I’m definitely a playmaker. I made reads and decisions on the fly whether to pass or shoot,” Brindley revealed. “Just making hockey plays is one of my best attributes. Things happen. You don’t always have to pass or always have to shoot. I think I make the right decision most of the time.”
Finding time and space can be difficult when a player gets to the next level. There is one way to find that open ice.
“A lot of credit goes to my skating ability. Obviously, I’m an undersized guy. That would mean being quick on your edges and spinning off guys and using your body to protect the puck is really important and behind the net. I think I use that to my advantage,“ Brindley said confidently.
Brindley is 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, and is constantly being asked about his size – comes with the territory. I didn’t bring it up, but he did. That’s telling, but it also lets me know that he’s going to overcome that. It’s become a narrative that he will squash. It’s not a chip on his shoulder. I don’t get that impression.
“The game is going towards smaller, quicker guys,” Brindley opined. “The game is so fast nowadays. There aren’t as many big, tough guys in the sport. Which sucks. My dad was a big, tough, defenceman. The game’s gone a bit away from that. Guys like Martin St-Louis and Clayton Keller helped with that. I think my skating and having a good hockey mind is important for myself.”
When I mentioned his dad played at 205 pounds, he cracked back and said, “He’s 225 now. He liked to scrap a bit. He was a big boy. He’s a tough guy from Thunder Bay. I like to play with an edge. I did drop the gloves my second year in Tri-City.”
Staying on this subject, an NHL scout had this to say about him.
“He’s undersized but is very tough and very fast. Elite skater and worker. He can kill penalties. He can forecheck. He’s got some offence, but the speed and energy will play for sure. He’s got a lot of depth and layers to his game.”
This prospect loves to represent his country on an international stage.
“It’s awesome. Anytime you get to represent your country and wear the USA Jersey it’s an amazing feeling. I think you can’t take it for granted because you never know when the next opportunity will be,” Brindley said probably hoping he would be invited to World Junior Camp like he was. “I’m excited to put the USA jersey on again hopefully soon.”
To get acclimated to campus life. He took a few classes at Michigan last summer.
“I was here during the summer. I trained here. Then I went back and forth from here then to train with the USA team. I got the lay of the land, and some of the guys were here too,” said Brindley.
Detroit has a special kind of pizza. Brindley loves pizza and states his favourite.
“It’s not bad. I’ve had a little bit. I don’t think it’s anything like Chicago Pizza. I love deep dish,” he interjected, but is interested in trying New York pizza.
Florida hockey has grown by leaps and bounds, and Brindley can help elevate the program.
“Growing up, hockey wasn’t the biggest thing down there. My dad played down there. He was my coach until I left for Tri-City. Our ’04 group was a top team in the country. I was lucky to stay until I was 15. I know some leave when they are 12 or 13,” Brindley explained. “My best friend Seamus Casey grew up with me, and we both give back. I’ve known him since he was five.”
Brindley can play the power play and the penalty kill. The right winger will continue to get better. I’m sensing he will move up in draft rankings as the season goes on.