Scouting Report: Gavin Brindley

Photo Credit: Michigan Photography

Gavin Brindley is currently ranked inside the top 10 for Smaht’s final 2023 NHL draft ranking, and he sticks out like a sore thumb when comparing his consensus ranking to our rankings. The Smaht team is considerably higher on Brindley than most.

There isn’t a prospect I’ve watched more this year than Brindley. I tried to catch a game of his every weekend since Michigan’s opening weekend. It’s not that I have an infatuation with the University of Michigan hockey program; it’s that I have been trying to talk myself out of putting Gavin Brindley inside the top 10 all year. Alas, through almost 20 games of notes and 5 games tracked, it’s safe to say that if anything I’ve wanted to put him higher in our rankings. 

Brindley is a player of smaller stature measuring in at 5’8 and 165 pounds according to NHL Central Scouting. He started off the year as the second line center between Rutger McGroarty and Jackson Hallum but eventually a mid-year move to right wing alongside Fantilli and McGroarty unlocked a second scoring line for Michigan. 

Brindley’s season can be broken up into two parts statistically. The first 14 games Brindley had 1 goal and 6 points total including a nine game scoreless streak. However, in the remaining 27 games, Brindley put up 11 goals and 32 points. While it’s easy to point to the addition of Fantilli for the increase of production (note: the beginning of his offensive explosion happened before Fantilli came to his line); I think it’s important to note that his microstat profile really never fluctuated or was inflated by his linemates. By my dataset I’d argue that Brindley was the primary driver of a lot of play regardless of who was on his line. 

Last year, Brindley played for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL and was third in the USHL behind Fantilli and Stramel in terms of points per game. He scored 42 points in 51 games including 14 goals. He grew up playing with Seamus Casey with the Florida Alliance where he fluctuated between playing both forward and defense before sticking at forward. 

Player Profile

D.O.B – October 5, 2004
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Height –5’9″
Weight –165 lbs
Position – Center / Right Wing
Handedness – Right

Brindley’s Style of Play


Brindley’s offensive game is centered around utilizing his speed and puck skill while being extremely aware of the play going around him to facilitate and dictate where play will go or where he needs to be to make a play. Take the play below (Brindley is #4 in blue/white in all clips).

Brindley comes in to the picture from the top right of the screen to help puck support #71 in a corner battle. Brindley checks over his right shoulder when the puck squirts free to see if there is anyone coming down on him from the blue line that would speed up his decision making when the puck gets to him. He then makes a deceptive fake to the middle of the ice moving #19 in white off the boards and moving his stick to the inside to prevent a pass. Brindley takes the puck and replaces #71 and wheels around the net with his eyes up the entire time and ends up hitting #73 for a medium-danger shot that #2 puts in off a rebound. 

These little plays are constantly made by Brindley. In the second half of the season they led to goals and points, but in the beginning of the season they were often fantastic plays that were either not buried or the puck was misplayed once it hit a teammates stick. 

Despite his size he’s not afraid of contact and will initiate far more contact than he receives. His motor combined with his fantastic skating makes him a constant puck retriever and once he gets the puck he is able to quickly get plays started.

Perhaps Brindley’s best skill is his ability to transport the puck through the neutral zone with control. He was the primary transition player on his line even when Fantilli was paired with him. The play below is one of the best examples of who Brindley is as a player

In the play above, Brindley breaks up the play at the blue line and puts a nifty move on Matthew Kniews to gain entrance to the zone. Knies backchecks him from behind and then you see, what I consider to be, Brindley’s biggest issue which is his lack of strength as Knies is able to bump Brindley off the puck. However, Brindley is able to get a stick on the puck going to the boards and Michigan regains control of the puck and later in the play Brindly is able to find the puck in a crowd and hits Casey for the game tying goal.

A very similar sequence of events happens in just about every game.

Despite a smaller stature, Brindley plays in close quarters and facilitates play in the offensive zone even if he has to find ways to get to the inside outside of the routes he was initially going to take. I find myself always so impressed with how he always knows where the puck needs to go to make the most optimal play. Between his quick touch pass to Casey who wheels around for a shot or feeding it between a defender’s legs to get to a medium danger shot: Brindley is always giving his teammates opportunities to make plays.

At Brindley’s floor he is a highly involved transition player who has so much in his skating and puck handling tool kit that he can seemingly carve up neutral zone defenses with ease. This play below is one of my favorite examples. He utilizes his elite crossovers to generate speed in the neutral zone and then makes a fake to the middle of the ice and moves the defender off his gap and lane before attacking the outside for an easy zone entry. 

What endears Brindley to me is his motor. He just never stops. No matter what’s going on in the play Brindley is going to be in the thick of it, and while his strength can mitigate his effectiveness in the interior of the play in the offensive zone, it doesn’t stop Brindley from continuing to try to make plays regardless if he’s bumped off the puck nor does it stop him from going to the dirty areas of the ice to try to get his shot off. This sequence was one of my favorite Gavin Brindley moments of the entire season

These types of plays by Brindley were made all season, even during his pointless streak.

Brindley is a fantastic skater as he generates great power from his slight frame going north-south and has fantastic crossovers which generates a lot of speed for him as he’s going through the neutral zone. You can tell he was a defenseman growing up in hockey as his backwards crossovers even generate power and he’s able to turn his hips and turn on a dime. His lack of strength leads him to be knocked off the puck, but his balance on his skates helps mitigate the lack of size.

I think he has a tremendous offensive ceiling given his skill, skating, awareness, and motor to get to all areas of the ice. However, there are times in a game where he looks to facilitate plays low-to-high or enters the zone and hits a player outside the dangerous scoring areas where he takes the play off his own stick. He has the skill to hold onto the puck a little longer to be the driver of the primary scoring chance, but sometimes defers to his linemates if he believes they have more time/space to make the play. At the beginning of the year he didn’t have the linemates to make those plays once he gave up the puck, but as the year went on he both started to play a bit more aggressively as well as with linemates who were able to operate in the time and space he created for his teammates.

What the Data Says Offensively

Brindley was involved in 47.6% of all successful, controlled transitions Michigan had and was more involved than Fantilli even when they played together on the same line. Of the NCAA draft eligibles he was the leader in transition involvement, transition success percentage, complete passes per 60, dangerous pass attempts per 60, and percentage of dangerous shots compared to his linemates. All of these stats are at even strength.

He compares almost identically to Oliver Moore in a lot of his microstats. Where the biggest differential is where Moore holds the edge is the percentage of passes intended to dangerous areas of the ice where Brindley’s percentage is lower than a lot of the other top point producers in this draft. However, Brindley facilitated so much of what was going on with Michigan’s offense as he began so many chain linked plays. 

Defensive Play

Even if Gavin Brindley’s offensive ability doesn’t translate or project to the NHL like I think it will, his defensive game is outstanding and a reason why I think he could project up and down a lineup for an NHL team.

Brindley is exceptional at suffocating space and is extremely engaged and hard on pucks defensively. 

Michigan had a 59% Corsi when Brindley was on the ice, and even when he was playing wing he played as a traditional center in the defensive zone given how defensively responsible he is as a player. He’s not afraid to initiate contact, and has a tremendous stick to break up oncoming rushes at the blue lines as well as generate turnovers to get the puck back. 

He was the leader in my dataset in terms of turnovers created in the neutral zone and that is largely because of how persistent he is at hounding puck carriers as well as his excellent anticipation in reading where passes will go during those quick turnover transitions that he can get to pre-scanned areas and know where defensive lapses were anticipated before the player with the puck can beat him with their read.

In the World Juniors he played primarily on the fourth line where you saw him consistently shut down plays and then drive everything for the fourth line for the USA. He would be bumped up occasionally to play in an offensive role, but as a draft eligible he excelled in the checking line role and at driving play to suffocate the oppositions’ top lines from being able to get any sustained pressure when they were on the ice.


Since early November, Brindley has been stapled inside my top 10 for this draft. His speed, skill, motor, awareness, and ability to be a puck transporter is among the top of this class. It’s really his slight frame and height that is the only real question mark going into the NHL draft for me. He was inside my top 10 even when he was being held scoreless in multiple games I tracked because he was generating so many chances and plays that should’ve became chances that I kept looking at his microstat profile and saying “The points will come.” While I’m happy that his puck luck regressed in a positive manner, I’m not naïve to know that if it didn’t that I’d be talking about Brindley being the steal of the 2nd or even 3rd round going into the 2023 NHL draft.

At his floor Brindley will be a dream on a team’s checking line. He will be able to transition the puck, move the puck with control in the offensive zone, and you will never question his motor or ability to turnover pucks with his skating and never-quit mentality of when he’s attacking the puck. 

I see a much larger offensive ceiling than most. As he gets stronger and able to drive play to the dangerous areas of the ice with the puck on his stick, he’s going to be able to get even more dangerous shots off, and use his skill to be the primary driver of scoring chances. As Fantilli and Samoskevich exit the Michigan program, it will be Brindley who will take up the mantle of being the driver of Michigan’s top line and he’ll see an expanded role on the power play. His shot is something I didn’t touch on very much in the report, but his snap-shot beat goalies clean from distance and his wrist shot was super accurate through screens in dangerous areas. With more strength his wrist shot will be able to become a more dangerous weapon.

I believe that if you like Oliver Moore in this year’s draft then you should love Gavin Brindley as well. I think both of them are best when the puck is on the stick, and both of them are some of the best puck transporters in this class. While Moore’s size and strength can get him to dangerous areas of the ice better than Brindley; I love Brindley’s off-puck game and how he’s able to find space in dangerous areas.

I’d project Brindley to be a top 6 winger or a third line center for a playoff team, and possesses an offensive ceiling that could be outstanding if given 2-3 more years in college to develop physically. 

I want all of the Gavin Brindley stock in the 2023 draft. Your favorite NHL team should as well.

Latest Update

May 28, 2023

stats from InStat and EliteProspects

Prospect report written by Austin Garret. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.

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