Way back when, Brent Gwidt was an interesting prospect, a sixth-round draft choice of the Washington Capitals.
“It was quite the whirlwind, being a small-town kid getting drafted right out of high school in '06,” Gwidt said.
Gwidt, from Minocqua, Wis., scored 41 goals in 21 games as a 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward for Lakeland High School. He was an all-stater and most valuable player of the Lumberjack Conference.
“I'm sure the scouts looked at a young guy who could skate with decent size and decent hands,” University of Nebraska at Omaha coach Dean Blais said.
That was seven years ago, and Gwidt, who turns 25 next month, is still plugging away. After spending three seasons with the Indiana Ice in the United States Hockey League, the senior is now a captain for the Mavericks.
The Capitals' rights to him have long since expired. He scored 27 goals in three years in the USHL. He's added 16 more in four seasons at UNO.
Oh, and Blais couldn't be happier with him.
“If he says something, he'll do it on the ice — or at least try to do it,” Blais said.
Now 218 pounds, Gwidt does whatever is asked of him, too, whether it's centering a makeshift line or playing on the wing. Blais considers him the team's best penalty-killer and perhaps its hardest worker.
And he's a quality captain, sharing the “C” with winger Matt White.
“He certainly says the right thing at the right time, and it's important for a captain to be able to do that,” Blais said. “He's earned the respect of his teammates.”
Gwidt has also added a little heretofore unseen speed this season, and it's helped him create a number of breakaway opportunities.
“That's something (strength coach) David Noonan worked on with us bigger guys last summer for our off-ice conditioning,” Gwidt said. “We didn't really lift as heavy of weights, didn't max out as much and focused on speed and quickness.”
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Gwidt has two short-handed goals — only three players in the country have more.
“I think it's anticipation and experience, knowing what's going to happen,” Gwidt said. “And having an active stick, getting it in lanes and blocking passes.”
But first things first when short-handed.
“It's something you have to take a lot of pride in,” Gwidt said. “You think defense first.”
Blais appreciates being able to plug Gwidt into whatever hole necessary in his forward lines without losing production.
“He's always consistent,” Blais said. “He's always going to work hard for his chances. I can put him with anyone and it doesn't seem to matter — he'll still get his opportunities. He's one of our most improved players, from year to year.
“And it says a lot about his character and unselfishness. He's basically playing where I ask him to play. When I talk to him about it, he says, 'I'll go where I'm needed.'”
Gwidt would like to be needed someday as a coach.
“Preferably at a higher level — high school or junior or as a college assistant,” he said. “I've been a captain a lot (he was an assistant captain last year and was also a captain in high school and was both captain and assistant captain in the USHL), so coaches have put a lot of trust in me and I've learned a lot about communication from them.
“I've learned from a lot of great coaches, so that's been a great steppingstone for another part of my life.”
But this part of his life is still going. After getting career highs last season with six goals and nine assists, he's picked up five goals this season, along with three assists.
“He certainly seems to be treating this like he wants to play another year or two — or more — after this year,” Blais said.
Gwidt is hoping for a chance to catch on in the minors somewhere.
“Spending three years in juniors was unexpected, but for me it's all worked out,” Gwidt said. “I got to win a championship in 2009 in the USHL. Then getting to come here and play for coach Blais for four years — it's been a long process, but it's all been worth it. It's been a blast.”
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