As the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoffs are about to commence, there are a few teams getting ready to dance that most analysts probably thought would be cleaning off their golf clubs by now.
One of those teams is the Calgary Flames.
After finishing third in the Pacific Division with 45 wins and 97 points, the Flames are preparing to do battle with the Pacific’s second seeded Vancouver Canucks. The Flames are not not just happy to have made the dance this season; they are poised to win the whole thing.
After taking home the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player, the Boston College standout and 2011 fourth-round pick took his hype out west to join the Flames. He scored a goal in their final regular season game of the 2013-14 season and was to be a major part of the 2014-15 club.
Despite a slow start to the season that saw him skate on the third line, Johnny Gaudreau has not disappointed. He finished 2014-15 with 24 goals and 40 assists for 64 points in 80 games, which puts him atop the leaderboard for rookies.
"He can play, that kid". Overheard right now in my basement about Johnny Gaudreau. #quotingmyself
— Mick Kern (@expomick) April 10, 2015
Due to his small frame, a good amount of scouts had their doubts as to whether or not he would ever make it to hockey’s top level. The New Jersey native was content to prove them all wrong, just as he had in college where he posted 175 points in 119 games with BC. Gaudreau comes from a hockey family and his father, Guy, is one of the most well-known hockey and skating instructors in Southern New Jersey.
Those that watched him grow up never doubted his ability to succeed at the highest level. Those that play with him, including veteran Jiri Hudler and second-year center Sean Monahan have come to expect it.
Early on it was apparent that the Flames has something special brewing. Coach Bob Hartley wanted to make sure that the production was equal up and down his entire lineup so he had some of his most skilled players skating on different lines. As the season progressed, it became virtually impossible to keep the trio of Gaudreau, Hudler and Monahan apart. What happened next was what executives in Calgary already knew:
These three were for real.
The trio responded by having career years as Hudler scored 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games, Monahan had 31 goals and 62 points in 81 games, and Guadreau positioned himself in between with 64 points in 80 contests. Their combined 202 points made them one of the most lethal scoring lines in the game and much can be attributed to Gaudreau’s presence on the ice.
Opposing teams need to keep a close eye on the speedy winger as one wrong move will send him in one-on-one with a goaltender. Even when he is properly defended, his vision allows him to open up the ice for teammates and produce quality scoring chances.
For his efforts this season, Gaudreau is a lock to be one of the three Calder Trophy finalists as the league’s top rookie in a pool that includes Mark Stone of the Ottawa Senators, Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators and Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers.
Johnny Hockey will be the first to tell you that he is not concerned with individual accolades. He cherished winning the Hobey Baker Award, but would have preferred the NCAA Championship that Union College won instead. He will take great satisfaction in his Calder Trophy nomination, but would rather hoist a much bigger prize towards the middle of the summer, that being Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Most analysts and know-it-all scribes have made their predictions for the NHL’s playoffs, and one will be hard pressed to find Calgary making it very far. Not only does Calgary have the ability to make it far, they have the ability to play for hockey’s greatest award. The reason for such is simple: Johnny Hockey.
Here are a few clips of Gaudreau doing what he does best.
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