In July, Gavin Brindley looked like a long shot to make it to the World Junior Championship. Left off the roster of the National Junior Evaluation Camp, the forward for the No. 6 Michigan hockey team faced off against his country this past December.
But with that chip on his shoulder, Brindley seized the opportunity.
At the USA World Junior Selection Camp on December 12 – 17, Brindley’s speed and skill shined, earning her a spot on the final World Junior roster. But Brindley wasn’t satisfied with just earning a roster spot.
And when he gets to the tournament, he immediately shines — and his 2023 NHL draft tree rises.
“When you’re on the world stage like that, you don’t get that opportunity very often,” Brindley said on Sunday. “If you’re going to do it, you’ve got to be productive.”
Brindley was very effective. He recorded four goals in seven games, but the stat sheet doesn’t reflect what made his performance so significant. He was very effective with his speed, using it to track down pucks, get ahead of the ball and create clean passes in the offensive zone.
Take the goal that’s why the USA went 2-0 against Canada in the finals, for example. Coming from his own defensive zone, Brindley blazed in front of the pack, creating plenty of space. He made a pass to fellow American Charlie Stramel at the same time, who sent a shot past Kenny Connors.
And at times, Brindley’s competitive performance has mirrored his time with the Wolverines this season.
“We’ll see every day in practice, how good he is,” Michigan assistant coach Rob Rassey said Monday. “Maybe things didn’t go his way, statistically, the way he wanted them to in the first half. But he did a lot of great things on the ice.
With 10 goals in 20 games this season, Brindley’s stats look good, but not great. Much like the World Juniors, though, his best performances didn’t always translate to goals or assists. Michigan coach Brandon Naurato said the Wolverines want to “create chaos, be predictable inside.” Gliding across the ice in the blink of an eye, Brindley is the catalyst for that chaos — even if viewers don’t always see it.
But under the microscope is World Juniors, where the world scrutinizes every second of play. And when the world got a chance to watch Brindley, they started seeing him touch every game. Although Brindley admitted he wasn’t really listening to what they were saying, he still knew he played well.
“I felt like I had a good race,” Brindley said. “So (I’m) coming back here with confidence.”
Rassey believes he can take that newfound confidence forward and create a better ice cream product.
“With his participation, and the work he’s done, I expect him to play a big role in the second half,” Rassey said. “Hopefully, he can use that Junior World performance as a way to get a little more bang for his buck.”
As Michigan looks to move past the ups and downs of its first half to build success in the rest of Big Ten play, the Wolverines need to keep their confidence up.
They don’t worry Brindley, though. After his World Junior match, he had a lot of money.