KINGSTON — There was a feeling of deja vu at the K-Rock Centre on Monday afternoon when Alex Gudbranson used his left-hand signature to complete a standard Ontario Hockey League player contract with the Kingston Frontenacs.
The 16-year-old defenceman was in the same second-floor Frontenacs boardroom two years ago when older brother Erik Gudbranson, also a defenceman, signed as Kingston’s first-round selection in 2008.
“To be honest being here in the exact same room signing it two years later is kind of a lot to take in,” said Alex Gudbranson, Kingston's top pick in this year's OHL priority selection.
“It was a flashback. Same seat, same everything. It was kind of weird but I’m really excited to be playing in this town and help get this team going to an OHL championship.”
Alex said it was his dream to come to the OHL and play for the Frontenacs.
“When Erik was signing (his OHL contract two summers ago) I just really wanted to make it here myself,’’ Alex said.
While parents Wayne and Donna were beaming with pride while Alex signed his contract in the presence of general manager Larry Mavety, Erik Gudbranson, who is 26 months older than Alex, was equally proud of his brother.
“He’s worked hard and he deserves it. He’s in a good place right now for his development,” said Erik, who was selected third overall by the Florida Panthers in this year's National Hockey League entry draft.
“For the next few years he’ll be here and he’ll be having some fun in Kingston, just like I did.”
Alex, who checks in at 200 pounds, is a couple of inches shorter than the 6-foot-4 Erik — “maybe a couple dinners later we’ll be even weight,” he joked — recognizes that he comes into the OHL as somewhat of a marked man.
“I know that because my older brother is a well-established player in this league and he is a pretty big target, sometimes guys will come after me,” Alex said.
“I accept the challenge. That’s the biggest thing I am looking forward to in this league.
“It was going to happen whether I like it or not so I’m really looking forward to it.”
The brothers have talked about it already and Erik said Alex understands what he is walking into this season.
“He’s going to be compared to me a lot. He’s going to be criticized and scrutinized right from his first exhibition game,” Erik said.
“What he is going to do is make a name under Alex Gudbranson, not Erik’s little brother. He’s welcoming the opportunity and is going to have some fun with it.”
While the brothers both say it would be terrific to play together on the Frontenacs blueline — a Goody and Goody combo for coach Doug Gilmour — the Panthers will determine whether that happens.
The Panthers, with ex-Frontenacs coach Jim Hulton working as an assistant coach for head coach Peter DeBoer, will have Erik at training camp.
“I really hopes he makes Florida. What brother doesn’t want his older brother to make the NHL,” Alex said.
“But if he does come back he brings a ton of leadership, skill and experience. He’s got a lot of tips and pointers for me to help me really establish myself in this league.”
Both Gudbransons have been busy working out hard over the summer. Erik’s aim, of course, is to make the Panthers but he also admitted coming back to play another junior season on a team with his brother isn’t a bad option.
“The two of us playing here together wouldn’t be a bad thing. I’m in a win-win situation,” Erik said.
Represented by agent Mark Guy of Newport Sports, Erik said he hasn’t been signed by Florida yet.
“I’m not too worried about that stuff. It will take care of itself,” he said.
Frontenacs players report for training camp on Sept. 1.