Guillaume Gélinas is a name that, if you foray through the Wilderness regularly, you are familiar with. The 21-year old defensman went undrafted due to his small stature and frame. At 5'10'' and 185 pounds, it's not hard to see why scouts thought he would have a hard time succeeding in the NHL.
Val d'Or Foreurs saw differently. The QMJHL team picked up Gélinas in the 2009-10 season (in which he only played 16 games). After that, the Quebec native was a regular on the Foreurs' blue line, culminating in his Emile Bouchard Trophy winning season, scoring 92 points (23-69) in 67 games this past season.
Hockey Wilderness' own Ger Devine was able to interview Gélinas shortly after he signed his 3-year contract with the Wild on July 1st. Prior to that interview, Ger also posted a brief bio of Guillaume. Gélinas looks to possess some encouraging about of ability, and has improved significantly each season.
Along with an impressive stat line, Gélinas brings concerns about his size. Wild fans should have those allayed by the success of Jared Spurgeon (who is poised for a great 2014-15 campaign). Hockey fans tend to be concerned with grit, and many seem to be convinced that players without size cannot possess it. Gélinas proves them wrong. In the most recent postseason Guillaume was on the wrong end of a knee-on-knee hit at the hands of Guelph Storm defender Chadd Bauman (warning: it's not easy to watch). Despite the seemingly shattering hit, he returned to tie the semi-final in the dying seconds, showing boatloads of grit, heart, try-hard, and clutch-ness all in one.
Val d'Or head coach Mario Durocher has this to say:
It’s a huge loss. He plays five-on-five against the (opponent’s) best line for the last two years for us.
The scouting on Guillaume is thin, at best. He has been written off well before he went undrafted due to his size. Gélinas has played almost with a chip on his shoulder since then; finally catching the eye of NHL clubs with his most recent season. EOTP also considered Gélinas a potential pickup for the Canadiens, with the goal of at least improving their AHL club. The same can be said for the Wild: at the very least, Guillaume provides some needed support for the struggling Iowa Wild, who are looking to have a vastly improved season this year.
Gélinas is speedy, and has a good shot. He certainly hasn't reached his ceiling (though his talented teammates in the Val d'Or certainly helped his production this season). He is quick to join the rush, and is defensively capable. He isn't afraid to be physical, though is at at least some disadvantage due to his size.
Perhaps his most unheralded strength are his gorgeous, flowing locks. They rival what we saw last season from the glorious FBJ.
While Guillaume's production is suspect to some influence from his teammates, the biggest weakness he faces is his size. There's nothing clever or insightful here: smaller players can be pushed around. This is not at all to say that Gélinas can't succeed- recent examples have shown that to be obviously false- simply that he will need to prove doubters wrong, as others have before him.
Guillaume will be a very intriguing player this season. Coming off a brilliant year, expectations could be high for the over-ager. It's almost certain that he will at least start out in Iowa. Don't be surprised to see him make the occasional appearance at the X, due to injuries if nothing else. There is always the possibility he will impress mightily in training camp, but with the crowded blue line the Wild have, it's unlikely Gélinas will be a 3rd-pairing player in the NHL, and frankly it would suit his development more to play higher minutes in the AHL. Look for him to be in Iowa, but working to prove himself worthy of the big club.
Guillaume was, however, my pick to be a surprise impact player in the most recent podcast. This coming season could be very interesting, but don't let initial struggles from Guillaume dissuade you: he's proven himself before, and could well do so again.