In sports, as is in life, a lot of attention is paid to what’s fresh and what’s new. When what’s new becomes what’s current, attention shifts to what’s next. In hockey, that involves prospects. And once Sven Baertschi became a full-time member of the Calgary Flames last month, Boston College winger Johnny Gaudreau became the best Flames prospect.
So when the heck is he going to get here?
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
A native of Carney’s Point, New Jersey – a township on the Pennsylvania side of New Jersey – Gaudreau played most of his hockey in that area. He moved to Dubuque, Iowa to play for the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints and finished high school in that city.
After being drafted by the Flames in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Gaudreau joined the NCAA’s Boston College Eagles. According to the Boston College website, he’s enrolled as a communications major in the College of Arts and Sciences.
A PRETTY GOOD RESUME
At the end of this school year, Gaudreau will be half-way through his bachelor’s degree.
In the last three seasons, he’s built quite a strong resume outside of his academics. In his one year in the USHL, he won a league championship and was rookie of the year. He also qualified for the all-star game. As a freshman in college, he made his conference’s all-rookie team. He won a Beanpot, a conference championship and an NCAA championship. He was the MVP of both the Beanpot and the conference playoffs.
And this season, he won a World Junior Championship gold medal, was named to the tournament all-star team and will most likely be a finalist for the prestigious Hobey Baker Award.
All of these are enough to give Gaudreau a lot of confidence, but not likely much security.
A LITTLE BIT OF SECURITY
After two seasons, Johnny Gaudreau is well-placed in the Boston College community. He’s the best player on arguably his college’s most prestigious team. He’s won on a national and international level. He has good coaches and good teammates around him. His little brother’s going to be joining him at Boston College next year – both at school and on the hockey team.
And most of all, he’s still small, and the NHL is still in many ways the land of the giants.
Check out this excerpt from the Boston Globe (and the full piece, which is excellent, but requires registration):
“There is maturation that still needs to happen, which is one of the reasons Gaudreau’s family is fighting off the advances by Calgary to get him into the NHL. His father says he will play at least his junior season in Chestnut Hill, and perhaps his senior as well.”
Later on, his father is quoted saying “Any player that’s played with him, in the locker room with him, will tell you that he’s still very young. He might be 19, but he’s still probably in the body of a 17-year-old boy.”
When I spoke with Gaudreau during Flames training camp, he noted that his family is strict about his school and that he’s really enjoying his time at Boston College. Another year or two at school will allow him to further pad his stellar on-ice resume, but also allow him to grow into his body a bit and bulk up his off-ice resume.
If Gaudreau somehow doesn’t make his mark in the National Hockey League, he probably owes it to himself to get the financial security that a Boston College degree will provide him with.
Two years ago, I would’ve said that a 5-7 college prospect should spend all four years in the NCAA, simply because there are too many obstacles from them turning pro sooner.
Now? It’s no longer a necessity that Gaudreau sticks around at Boston College, it’s merely a smart idea for his future. If he succeeds at the NHL level, it’s fantastic and he has a degree in his back pocket for when he retires. If he struggles, he has a safety net.
Plus, it’ll probably be fun for him to play for a couple years with his little brother.