Monday, 15 July 2013

Gaudreau Excited About His Future and the Flames Future Too

Born 16 months apart, Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau and his little brother Matt are tight.

"Everywhere we've been together, we've just been so close," Gaudreau said after Monday's development camp scrimmage at WinSport.

"We shared rooms growing up until we were 17 years old, our Dad coached both of our hockey teams, back-to-back games every weekend -- his game and then my game."

Over the years, Gaudreau said they even picked their schools together.

"The reason why we picked Boston College is they wanted us both and that was really special for us," said Calgary's fourth round draft pick in the 2011 draft.

By deciding to return to B.C. for his junior year and play on the same team as Matt -- as was their original plan, Johnny will get to play alongside his brother on the same team for the first time since they played together for one year in high school.

"Hopefully we get to play with each other all year," said Gaudreau, who turns 20 in August. "If I would have stayed another year in the USHL instead of going to Boston College for my freshman year, I would have played against him one year but I left early to go to school."

A Fan Favourite Already

For someone who has never played in a game for Calgary, Gaudreau has quickly become one of the Flames most popular players thanks to his offensive wizardry on the ice. His talent was on display at the last World Junior Hockey Championships when he scored seven goals in seven games for Team U.S.A.  

Having already seen him dipsy doodle around opposition defencemen on television, the Flames Development Camp has been a chance for fans to see his offensive prowess live and in person. With the size of the bodies all around him, the intensity, all the crashing and banging, how he somehow still manages to create space for himself to make those sublime passes is something else.

It's that elusive, unteachable raw offensive skill set, which has left Flames fans having sleepless nights in fear that they might lose Gaudreau in the same way Anaheim lost Justin Schultz last summer when the college graduate refused to sign with the Ducks and became a free agent. Those alarm sirens began wailing last spring when Gaudreau announced he was returning to Boston College for a third year.

However, Gaudreau's been clear with his motivation. He wants the chance to play with his brother. He says he also wants to get bigger so he's better prepared to handle the rigors of the professional game. Essentially, he's hoping one more year will get him to a weight that will keep him an effective player.

Maybe Not Much Taller, But Certainly Bigger

Last year at this time, Gaudreau says he was in the vicinity of 143 pounds. This year, his 5-foot-8 frame is tipping the scales at 158. That still may not be a lot, but it's a lot better.

"Definitely I’m a lot thicker. This summer has been awesome for me. I’ve gained 8-10 pounds since the end of the year. I’ve been working out pretty hard at school and I’m just getting done working out at school so I get to go home now," said Gaudreau, who credits his school's strength and conditioning coach Russ DeRosa for his weight gain.

"I hope that next year, by the end of the year, I’ll be high 160's, maybe 170. I doubt I’ll be reaching the 170’s but hopefully the high 160s -- maybe 168 or 169," said Gaudreau.

Gaudreau is a likable, personable player off the ice. Hailing from Carneys Point, New Jersey, when he talks he sounds like you'd expect someone to sound if they're from New Jersey while also spending a lot of time in the Boston area.

In that distinct accent, he says his desire to continue to get stronger was also a factor in his decision to return to school.

"Playing with some of the bigger bodies this year, the bigger guys at this camp, I can tell how much guys are getting stronger and I know that if I want to make it to the next level, I obviously need to get stronger and bigger in the right areas," said Gaudreau. "That was one of my biggest concerns in going back to school."

Getting Closer to Turning Pro

Could Gaudreau be ready to sign an entry level contract and turn pro by the time the 2013-14 NCAA season is over? He says he hopes so.

"I’m just playing it by ear right now," said Gaudreau, confirming no future plans are set beyond playing this year at Boston College. He says if all goes well, he'd like to be able to join the Flames by the end of the season.

"Hopefully they want me next year at the end of the year and hopefully I can come in and make an impact for them.," says Gaudreau. "If I play well this year and put on the right weight, I think I might be able to do it."

Gaudreau says one of his biggest concerns is being able to play well at the pro level and not be a liability.

"I just want to make sure that when I come in or if I come in, I’m ready to go," said Gaudreau. "I don’t want to be one of the weak links out there. I want to make sure that I’m not a concern out on the ice. I want to make sure that I’m valuable on the ice and not just one of those players that oh, oh, he’s on the ice, we’ve got to watch out."

Excited About the Young Flames

Having enjoyed a great week at the Flames development camp, his third with the club, Gaudreau sounds genuinely excited about Calgary's future.

"Last year there were good guys but this year with their draft and all the young guys they’ve gotten and a lot of good free agents they’ve picked up like Corban Knight, it just shows where the organization is going and I’m really excited to see the next few years," he said. 

One of the faces of the rebuild is Sean Monahan, Calgary's sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. Gaudreau's has had as close a look as anybody has had to Monahan this week as they've played on the same line in both scrimmages and he's liked what he's seen.

"It’s been a fun week playing with him. He's a talented player, moves the puck, big strong, fast kid. Not selfish, great guy on and off the ice and he’s really effective all over the ice. It’s been awesome ," Gaudreau said. 

He hopes the two of them will be reunited sometime down the road.

"Yeah, that would be nice, getting to play with him would be real exciting, especially playing in front of 20,000 fans -- that would be even better. Hopefully we get to play with each other again someday down the road."

Fans would like that too. As it stood Monday afternoon, they already couldn't get enough of 'little' Johnny Gaudreau as he signed autographs and posed for pictures with small kids, big kids and even a bunch of Dads.

"Yeah, it’s something I never really expected. I’ve never had the chance to do that stuff before," Gaudreau said about all the attention. "It’s a lot of fun coming up here, seeing all the fans, and seeing how much they love their hockey so it’s pretty cool."

Perhaps he'll have a chance to do it again as soon as next March.

3 comments:

  1. Can a undersized player make it in today's game? The guy is incredibly quick and slippery I just wonder if he can handle playing against men in the NHL.

    Who would you compare him to today or in previous eras? Not really a Joe Mullen and not really a Theo Fleury? Marty St. Louis?

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  2. "Can a undersized player make it in today's game? The guy is incredibly quick and slippery I just wonder if he can handle playing against men in the NHL."

    Take a look at who won the Conn Smythe last month :)

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    1. Kane's skates can at least reach the floor when he sits on the bench. Johnny may need a step stool. ;-)

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