June 27 2013 12:51PM
For all of the crap we give Jay Feaster around here, it's hard to be pessimistic about the 2011 4th rounder the Flames used on an undersized, soon-to-be college Junior. Most 4th rounders don't even develop into something we could feasibly call an "NHL prospect", but that's exactly what Johnny Gaudreau has done - and then some.
Gaudreau has been tracking well for as long as we have had stats for him:
|GPG||NHLE G||APG||NHLE A||PPG||NHLE P|
Obviously, that's an extremely positive growth pattern. In just three seasons, Gaudreau has doubled his NHLE to almost 50. It's probably unreasonable to expect his scoring curve will continue to rise at that pace, but I wouldn't be surprised to see an NHLE of 50+ for Gaudreau next year. Generally, guys who produce at that rate at that age are sure-fire NHLers.
Now, I say "generally" because sometimes things that are okay at lower levels don't transfer to higher levels - and of course, I'm talking about Gaudreau's size here. Now, I've been on record plenty of times saying size doesn't matter if the player has enough skill. We know Johnny Hockey is crazy skilled - but there are still concerns about his ability to become a top-flight player. Otherwise, he'd be a bluechip kid.
Every site where I found his height and weight agrees: he's, at best, 5'8 and about 150 pounds. But it's not that he's small - no, it's about what I think might change when he puts that extra weight on. The 8 NHLers shorter than he is weigh an average of 24 pounds more than Gaudreau, so I'm going to assume he puts another 15 pounds on at the very least. Depending on where that strength is allocated, it can screw up his technical skating abilities, his agility, a whole mess of things. There's always risk when changing one's body.
I feel bad because Gaudreau is seemingly the only player I've ever had this problem with. Reconciling size with skill is generally one of my strongest opinions when looking to the quality of a player. Now, it's not like I dropped him out of the top 5 or anything, and I don't think it will be a big deal for him to deal with that extra muscle - but it might be, and that was enough for me.
Right now, though, Gaudreau has high-end speed, agility and vision. Any time I've watched him over the past two years, I've come away impressed with how he played. Any line he was on, at best he appeared to be carrying the mail and at worst he was more than keeping pace. I still think him to be a good to very good NHLer, but we'll have to see where his game is in a year or two once he's adjusted to his NHL weight.
He completely dominated the World Junior Championships last year, scoring 7G and 2A in 7GP en route to a Gold Medal with the US team. Now, it's called the tournament of small sample sizes for a reason - but it's positive to see nonetheless. He'll be too old for this year's team, so he'll play the full schedule for Boston College.
Otherwise, Gaudreau probably has the best resume of any Flames hopeful right now or in recent memory, for that matter. As a college sophomore he has already won a Rookie of the Year award, a Beanpot MVP award, the NCAA National Championship, a WJC Gold medal, the Hockey East player of the Year award and finished 2nd in the running for the Hobey Baker. Phew.
The best thing for the Flames and John going forward is to continue to let Gaudreau play and develop in the NCAA. In my opinion, he should probably stay all 4 years in the NCAA in order to get stronger and work out the kinks in his game (not to mention to get his education finished) and then have at least half a season in the AHL to acclimate to the pro game. He'll be a 22-year old NHLer.