The Montreal Canadiens selected University of Wisconsin commit Jack Gorniak with the 123rd overall selection in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft - the first of two picks acquired from the San Jose Sharks earlier in the day.
Gorniak, born September 15, 1999, is perhaps the oldest first-year eligible player in this draft class, having missed out on the 2017 Draft by mere hours.
The left-winger played in the US High School circuit last season, dominating his competition with 28 goals and 56 points in 24 games. Gorniak was the clear focal point on the West Salem High roster, tallying 26 more points than the second highest-scorer on his team.
Gorniak was once again a standout in his appearances for Team Wisconsin in the Upper Midwest HS Elite League, with his 32 points in 21 games being the fourth-most of any player in the competition despite little assistance from his teammates.
The trend we are seeing here is that Gorniak, an average-sized forward, is capable of creating offence all on his own - at least at the level of play he has been exposed to thus far.
He manages to accomplish this primarily due to his skating ability. Gorniak is fast on his feet, and can get up-and-down the ice quickly. That seems to be the number-one quality the Canadiens have been looking for in this draft, as Trevor Timmins suggested in his media scrum at the Scouting Combine.
It should be noted that while Gorniak is listed as a left winger in most-if-not-all publications, he is described as a two-way centre in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. If Gorniak can indeed fill in down-the-middle, it’s yet another pick to fill that organization need this weekend.
Gorniak will join the University of Wisconsin Badgers for the upcoming 2018-19 season, which will be a tremendous test for the teen. His speed is not in question, but his physicality and puck skills will be put to the test, and given a chance to develop playing against more mature college players.
Wisconsin has been one of the worst teams in the Big Ten for the past number of seasons, though they have shown improvement over the past two years. Gorniak will join the team as a long-term asset, almost certainly needing all four years on campus before turning pro, and will hope to be part of the Badgers turn-around.
Hockey Prospect Black Book
Gorniak is a speedy, opportunistic center that does a good job in harnessing his speed to use as a weapon. While his playmaking ability is not high end, he is able to create offensive chances by getting himself and the puck to key areas of the ice.
Future Considerations: #264
Hockey Prospect: #179
EOTP Consensus Ranking: #197
The Canadiens chose Gorniak higher than any scouting service had him ranked, though that means relatively little at this stage in the draft. He possesses a number of attributes the Habs were prioritizing coming into the weekend, and fits into a similar mold as many of those skilled, speedy players selected ahead of him.
This is doubtlessly a project-pick for the Canadiens, who can afford to be patient with this player after stocking the shelves with a slew of new prospects over the past two days.