June 25 2014 10:00AM
Few Calgary prospects have had an amateur career comparable to Johnny Gaudreau. National champion, gold medalist, tournament MVP, league MVP and multiple all-star, Gaudreau can count himself amongst the very few hockey players who has had several t-shirts made of them before ever stepping on the ice as a pro. He's a sublime talent and probably the most exciting player in the Flames system.
The only reason Gaudreau isn't #1 on this list is the same thing that has no doubt dogged him throughout his career: his small stature.
Gaudreau was the smallest player ever drafted by the Flames when they called his name in the 4th round back in 2011. If he makes the NHL full time next year, he'll probably be its most diminutive skater. At approximately 5'7", 155 pounds, the 21-year old left winger is an unimposing figure. In many ways hockey is still a big mans game, so until Gaudreau can translate his success in the show, the question of his size will remain.
That's the only knock against the kid. Otherwise, he's an outstanding prospect. He lead Hockey East in every major offensive category you can think of this season: points (80), goals (36), assists (44), powerplay goals (10) and shots on goal (159). His incredible plus/minus rating of +42 was second only to linemate and fellow Calgary prospect Bill Arnold (+43).
Gaudreau didn't merely lead his division in scoring. He completely destroyed it. His 80 points were 15 more than second place Kevin Hayes, who was also a Gaudreau linemate. The closest non-Eagle point getter in Hockey East was Kevin Goumas of New Hampshire with 53 points. The closest scoring junior (ie; the closest scoring guy of the same age) managed 39 points - less than half of Johnny's results. On top of all that, Gaudreau tied Paul Kariya's record single season point streak of 31 consecutive games. His 80-points were the most the league has seen since 2003.
This was a total runaway folks.
Of course, Gaudreau's year didn't end there. The kid was invited to play for the American team at the World Championships this spring, were this stuff happened:
Gaudreau was a human highlight reel against a better caliber of competition in the IIHF tournament. He also tied for the team lead in points with 9 (and he could have had a dozen more with a few more bounces). In a series of contests against older, bigger, stronger opponents, Gaudreau again proved himself to be one of the best players on the ice.
Hands, agility, speed, vision, creativity, a laser accurate shot - aside from height and weight, Gaudreau has it all. He thinks the game at a different level and can execute circus-like plays at high speed. He's already pro-level or better in many ways.
Gaudreau didn't look terribly out of place during his single game Flames debut at the end of the season, but the organization may choose to start him in the AHL anyways because of the size thing.
Of course, if Gaudreau picks apart the American Hockey League like he has every other level of hockey he has ever played at, the Flames won't have much choice but to call him up and give him a chance to answer the lone, lingering question about his hockey career that remains.
PS - You can vote for Gaudreau as best male college athlete of the year here.