MEN'S HOCKEY: Overnight Veteran
Johnny Gaudreau Must Fill A Vastly Different Role On His Young Team
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 10, 2013 06:10
“Last season cut a little shorter than we expected, losing in the first round, but I think those adjustments from last year are going to be what makes us move forward in the tournament.”
On a personal level, Gaudreau thinks that the biggest improvement that he needs to make this year is in the defensive end. Though he undoubtedly has displayed prowess as a prolific forward, Gaudreau has not developed as much as he would like as a defender. He said that, in particular, he needs to work on blocking more shots and making more plays in the corners and along the walls in the defensive zone.
The wealth of experience that Gaudreau has gained both in collegiate play and outside of it will help him along as he looks to improve defensively.
In Ufa, Russia last year at the World Junior Champion- ships, Gaudreau led the U.S. team with seven goals and tied for first on the team with nine points. His efforts helped the team secure a berth in the finals and a 3-1 win over Sweden.
“I know we don’t play too many [European players], but they’re really creative with the puck and what they do in the offensive zone, and I know my defense really has to be better, and just seeing that, how offensively talented they are, it’s been helping me out on my defensive side,” he said.
On top of that, Gaudreau has attended the Flames’ development camp for the past three years and played against players that are years older than him and already playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) and NHL. Not only can that help him with his game, but the experience that he takes from watching those players can also help him to become more of a leader on and off the ice as he sees the examples set forth by players with more experience.
While defensive progress is much on his mind, Gaud- reau hasn’t forgotten his primary role on the team—generating points. This year, he’s set up for success and is playing on a line that could prove lethal.
“It’s me, Kevin Hayes, and right now a freshman Austin Cangelosi,” Gaudreau said. “He’s a really young, talented player, he played in the USHL last year, and he’s doing really well so far. It’s going to be fun to play with Kevin. I’ve been here for two years now and I don’t think I’ve ever played a game [on the line] with him, so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Last year, Hayes finished the year tied for fifth in points with 25. On the line, the senior is the figure of ultimate experience as Gaudreau makes his transition and Can- gelosi brings fresh talent.
With a highly skilled freshman class and veteran leadership tying it together, the Eagles have high hopes for this season. Ideally, they would return to the Frozen Four. Though the tournament is always an exciting opportunity, this year’s holds special value to Gaudreau, and he hopes to attend it with his team for the second time.
“Its in Philly this year,” he said, “and that’s about 20 minutes from where I live. I have a whole bunch of family and friends that are coming out to watch us. I mean, it’s the Frozen Four and you should be excited about it no matter what, but since it’s kind of close to my hometown I’m going to have a lot of friends and family there so I’m really looking forward to that.”
Perhaps another Hobey Hat Trick will be in the cards for Gaudreau as he stages his homecoming, but the junior doesn’t have it set as a priority. Rather, he is focused on getting the entire team to Philly and winning a national championship. Any personal awards, though they are in the back of his mind, would simply be an added bonus.
If Gaudreau wants to lead his team to such success, it will take an enormous commitment on and off the ice, not only to improving his own game, but also to motivating his team, both through his offensive success and through the less tangible leadership that can be as simple as speak- ing up in the locker room or on the bench.
He needs to lead by example—playing hard, work- ing out hard, doing what it takes to improve personally, and carrying himself with confidence off the ice. He has already made a good start as he dedicates himself to be- coming a more well-rounded player. He sees practice as the time to do that, and that means supplementing that time with extra reps after practice in order to maintain and grow his offensive prowess.
Tweets by @bcheights
Voices From the Dustbowl
What is the most annoying snack someone can bring to class?