World Junior Hopefuls: Johnny Gaudreau

Every year, the annual IIHF World Junior Championship tournament provides young hockey players with a great opportunity to show their wares against the best players from the age-group from throughout the world. It’s a great development tool and players as varied as Jarome Iginla, Roman Horak and Leland Irving have had the chance to represent their nations at the World Juniors. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at the chances of the various Flames prospects vying for World Junior roster spots.

Next up is Johnny Gaudreau.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

Calgary’s fourth round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Gaudreau is a small man. Initially listed as 5-5 and 135 pounds by NHL Central Scouting, the New Jersey native has gradually grown. He’s not a towering presence quite yet, but he’s now roughly 5-8 and probably 175 pounds. He joined the NCAA’s Boston College Eagles last season.

On the ice, Gaudreau is a towering presence, though, and it’s mostly due to his play. Flat-out, the kid has got skills. He’s also pretty clutch. As of this writing, he has 19 points in 11 games this season and a combined 63 points in 55 college games. Oh yeah, and he was the MVP of both the Beanpot Tournament (between Boston-area schools) and the Hockey East playoffs. Finally, he scored a bunch of awesome goals in the NCAA championship tournament, which his team won.

He’s a pretty great hockey player, is considered a contender for the prestigeous Hobey Baker Award, and will not be legally able to drink in the United States until August 2014.

IS HE ON THEIR RADAR?

Gaudreau was invited to the selection camp for the American World Junior team last winter, but was one of the last cuts – something he credits for motivating his tremendous play in the second half of the season. He was invited to the summer evaluation camp this past August and reportedly looked very good, to the point where the coaching staff were putting him on a line with Montreal Canadiens first round pick Alex Galchenyuk.

You don’t do that unless you’re auditioning somebody for a top-line job.

WHAT ARE HIS CHANCES?

A lot of pundits, including our friends at the United States of Hockey, are saying Johnny Gaudreau is a lock for a roster spot.

Given his resume, we can’t really disagree.

He’s driving play and scoring really cool-looking goals against guys that are both much bigger and much older than him. He’s arguably the best player on college hockey’s best team. He already has a national championship under his belt, and he was a key factor in his team winning it. And he’s leading his conference in scoring.

Based on these things alone, it’s hard to imagine USA Hockey brass aren’t a bit curious to see what he can do against guys his own age.

VERDICT

One of the best (and smallest) prospects the Flames have had in awhile, all signs seem to point to Johnny Gaudreau suiting up for the American entry at the World Junior Championship.

As hard as it will be for Flames fans to cheer for the United States, I’d like to see them try to stop themselves if Gaudreau has nearly as good a performance on this stage as he has had so far in his college career.