Crafty Gaudreau Uses Size To His Advantage On The Ice
Published: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
In this era of exceptional technological advancements and statistical obsession, the art of doubting has become about as ingrained in the DNA of professional sports as the players and the games themselves. In the realm of hockey recruitment and scouting, goals and assists have become devalued, while size and strength are seemingly the telltale signs of whether a player can have an impact in the NCAA or NHL.
Sometimes however, players like Johnny Gaudreau come along and make the scouts forget what their computers are telling them. Gaudreau, listed generously on the Eagles' website at 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds, has been facing questions about his size for his entire career. But in his freshman campaign with Boston College, he is making those who doubted him look foolish yet again.
"I just keep the doubters in the back of my head," Gaudreau said. "I can't worry about what other people are saying. All I can do is play my game, and hopefully I can keep succeeding as people keep saying that I can't make it. It's all about putting their words in the back of my mind and remembering what they say when I'm on the ice."
That motivation has spurred his unquestionable talent to a hot start in his true freshman season. The 18-year-old Gaudreau, picked as the Hockey East Preseason Rookie of the Year, has registered five goals and five assists in the first 10 games of the season.
These gaudy numbers have earned him Hockey East Rookie of the Week accolades twice already this year, and have put to rest any lingering questions of how he would adjust to the physicality of the NCAA.
Head coach Jerry York has been impressed by Gaudreau's rapid adjustment from the USHL to the collegiate level, if not a little bit surprised.
"He has exceeded all of my expectations for him so far," York said. "He's very smart and strong on his skates. Hockey is a game where you can be 6-foot-6 and really effective or 5-foot-6 and be really effective. There's room for both and I think his size fits in very well on our team. He's not a high-maintenance guy, he's all about the team, he works hard, and he's certainly going to be a key factor for us going forward."
Gaudreau's development as a player began when he played for his father with the Gloucester Catholic Rams, a period that he credits as being crucial to getting him to where he is today.
It was during his time with Gloucester that Gaudreau committed to Northeastern University and then head coach Greg Cronin. However, this was just the beginning of a long and winding journey that would eventually land him in York's program.
In 2010-11, Gaudreau earned a spot on the Dubuque (Iowa) Fighting Saints of the USHL, the top youth hockey league in the United States. As a 17-year-old rookie, Gaudreau netted an outstanding 36 goals and 36 assists in 60 regular season games on his way to the USHL Rookie of the Year award.
Most importantly for him, Gaudreau and his teammates captured the coveted Clark Cup, the top trophy of U.S. youth hockey. Gaudreau called the experience his "most memorable experience in hockey." Once again, Gaudreau had swept the doubters aside with his seamless transition to the USHL.
"It was tough at first because I was a small player and I really wasn't mature enough in terms of weight and other things," said Gaudreau of the transition. "But when I got out there my coach, coach Montgomery, put me through a whole bunch of stuff and he helped me improve my game a lot because he was a small guy too."
From there, Gaudreau's meteoric rise in North American hockey only continued. In this past June's NHL draft, the Carney's Point, NJ, native was not expecting big things. In fact, he was not even following the event when his name was called in the fourth round, 104th overall, by the Calgary Flames.
"I didn't think I was going to get drafted at all," Gaudreau said. "They always have the rankings out, and when I was younger I would never be on the lists, so it never really entered my head. When the final draft rankings came out last year, I was at No. 193 just for North American players. Then I was on the ice the day of the draft and I got a phone call from [Flames' GM] Jay Feaster to tell me they had picked me."
As surprised as the humble forward may have been to suddenly be part of an NHL organization, what happened next was equally startling.
Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin, whom Gaudreau had committed to play for almost two years prior, left the Huskies for a job with the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs. Assistant coach Albie O'Connell left as well, and with the NU program in limbo, Gaudreau decommitted from Northeastern.