In a world where expectations and reality are often compared and contrasted, Brady Gilmour found out the hard way how different they can be. Setting up for the 2017-18 OHL season, there was a lot of reason to be optimistic about Gilmour’s game. He just posted 26 goals and 47 points on a non-playoff Saginaw team, and showed flashes of potential more reminiscent of his high OHL draft stock from 2015. Gilmour had represented Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge , and was selected in the 7th round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings in June. Naturally, the expectations were raised for the following season. But reaching them turned out to be more of a challenge than even Gilmour could’ve anticipated.
“Definitely coming off that year and being drafted I wanted to have a good year. Unfortunately, I had a slow start to the season and ended up getting injured, but there was nothing I could do about [the injury],” said Gilmour.
After producing at a point-per-game average lower than the previous season, Gilmour suffered a dislocated elbow in a game against the Sudbury Wolves on January 19th which held him off the ice for the remainder of the season. Gilmour’s point totals stopped at 25 points in 41 games. His 0.60 PPG avg. took a step back from the 0.72 PPG mark he set in ’16-17.
“It was a weird injury and I was out definitely longer than I was supposed to be. Just something you can’t really do too much about. Watching your teammates battle and play is never fun, especially with how it ended being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.”
After battling for a low seed in the playoffs, Saginaw drew a dreaded matchup against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the first round which ended after just four games. Just like that, Gilmour’s post draft year was over in a flash, leaving behind a lot to be desired. But even though things didn’t go according to plan, Gilmour says the season wasn’t a total loss.
“I definitely wouldn’t say it’s a write-off. I definitely did some good things. I didn’t get a whole lot of bounces but I did learn a lot.”
Head coach Troy Smith echoed that sentiment, noting that the lack of Gilmour’s presence made a visible difference down the stretch.
“I think last year was a change for him where he kinda had to become ‘the guy’ and the leader. I think he learned a lot from that, and it was evident in our results,” said Smith. “After he went down in Sudbury, our last 25 games were tough sledding. So, I think he’s learned a lot on how to shoulder that load and hopefully he hits the ground running this year.”
Getting off to a good start will be a huge key for Gilmour’s attempt at a strong comeback season, one that he feels prepared for despite spending part of his summer rehabbing the injury.
“At the beginning of the offseason I was focused on just getting my elbow better. Then it was getting into working out right away since I missed so much time and so many games, just trying to get back into shape right away,” Gilmour said. “I’m definitely trying to get the legs back. At camp in June that was my first time back in really meaningful situations. Right now, I feel like I’m not behind anyone. Everyone had the summer off, so I think everybody’s still trying to get their legs back for regular season. But I feel pretty good right now.”
Gilmour was part of Detroit’s development camp in June, which was his first time on the ice in a competitive setting since his injury. Now in the midst of OHL training camp, Gilmour isn’t taking for granted how happy he is to be back healthy on the ice.
“I’m really excited to get going again. Even for just a preseason game, it’s nice just to get the jersey back on and playing with all the guys.”
Now that he’s back and ready to go, Gilmour knows it’s time to take the next step in his game and make up for lost time. Pro level hockey is still in his sights, but Gilmour feels his skating needs to be among the priorities for him to improve this season.
“I saw a couple skating coaches [in the summer]. That’s definitely the biggest adjustment to the next level, is the speed. I’m just trying to get faster and stronger, that’s what takes players to the next level. Being a center, I’m definitely gonna bear down more on draws too, and hopefully get those numbers up. But just play an all-around game, obviously points help, and take it day by day and try to be a better player every day.”
Smith not only sees Gilmour’s skill taking the next step, but an elevated role on the team brings with it new responsibilities too.
“He’s gotta be a leader for us. We drafted him four years ago, he’s a first round pick, tough year last year, but if he can stay healthy he should be a dominant player for us,” said Smith. “For him personally, it’s a contract year being drafted by Detroit, and he’s gotta have a strong season start to finish and hope he stays healthy.”
Even after a down season, the expectations remain high for Gilmour. But if there’s anybody who understands the value of not getting too far ahead of yourself, it’s Gilmour.
“Individual success comes with team success. Our motto around the room right now is take it day by day,” said Gilmour. “Obviously [Saginaw] had some exciting signings in the offseason, but you can’t really look too far ahead because anything can happen.”
With another offseason in the books, the Spirit are primed to be a threat in the OHL’s Western Conference this season. Saginaw will win and lose as a team, but the impact a healthy Gilmour can bring to the ice every night might just be enough to make that 2017-18 season barely an afterthought.