Development Camp 2013: Johnny Gaudreau



When you’re covering Calgary Flames prospect camps, the first question you get from the more casual Flames fans is “Which one is Johnny Gaudreau?” The second thing you hear is “Ohhhh, wait, nevermind…” as the person speaking to you suddenly sees the little guy do something dazzling on the ice.

The fourth round selection of the Calgary Flames in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has been the centre of attention for the past three prospect camps; the first because people were wondering how pint-sized he really was, the rest because he’s racked up a lot of accolades playing in the NCAA. Standing a generous 5-7 and weighing just under 160 pounds, the New Jersey native has won an NCAA championship, a World Junior gold medal and was named one of the best college players in the United States last season for Boston College.

At this year’s development camp, the fan reactions seemed to alternate between salivating over Gaudreau’s immense talent and then mini-panic attacks when confronted with the possibility that he could sign elsewhere after he finishes four years of college – or two more seasons from now. On the first full day of camp, Gaudreau held court with local media and the subject of “Schultzing” the Calgary Flames was the topic du jour.

“I really enjoy it here, all the coaches and the GM. I really enjoy my time here when I come up to Calgary, and I’m just trying to get my education right now and hopefully I’ll just keep playing hockey and I’ll get a chance to play for the Flames someday.” said Gaudreau.

The 19-year-old (he’ll be 20 in August) has completed two years of a communications degree at Boston College. While he’s looking forward to pursing a second NCAA championship and the opportunity to play with his younger brother Matt this season, he cites his education as the primary reason for staying put in college. As for the opportunity to impress Flames brass at development camp, Gaudreau noted that it’s part of a process.

“I’m just trying to show them that hopefully I can make their team someday. Whether it’s this year or next year, I know I just want to make sure that when I come in I’m ready. I know getting my weight up is really important right now, so trying to focus on that pretty much in college,” said Gaudreau.

While nothing is ever entirely certain with college players until the ink is dry on a contract, the situation with Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames is fairly cut-and-dry, at least for the time being. The Flames insist that there’s nothing to worry about and have made it clear that they want Gaudreau in Calgary when the time is right (and that he’ll get to decide when that is). Gaudreau is openly complimentary about the organization, the city and the fans. While he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing elsewhere by signing, he spoke a lot about playing for Calgary “someday” in the future (and contemplated timelines with the Canadian Press’ Darren Haynes).

Gaudreau is probably a year away from making a serious decision about his hockey future. There’s really no forward prospect in the system – aside from maybe Sven Baertschi – with his offensive sizzle, so a Corban Knight situation where he has too many guys ahead of him on the depth chart is unlikely. He’ll also have finished most of his degree – and can probably tackle the remaining classes over the summer months – and he’ll have spent enough time in a tough college conference to know if he can hack it at a higher level.

And for the Flames part, they can spend the next year or so amassing assets to complement Gaudreau and make his decision easier. One could argue that this process has already begun, what with the acquisition of bigger, more physical forwards such as Knight, Sean Monahan and Emile Poirier (ahead of the more physically slight Hunter Shinkaruk) over recent months. It’s as if Flames management saw the difference in Gaudreau’s on-ice confidence level at the World Juniors when he was playing with bigger line-mates compared to when he played with the more diminutive forwards.

Until Gaudreau signs on the dotted line, though, both Flames fans and management will probably operate under an air of cautious optimism. There are no sure things in life and you can’t really blame a tiny guy for getting his education finished before gambling on a pro hockey career. But when the player in question is as talented and successful as Gaudreau, you sure wish he’d get it over with and sign already so everyone can see what he can do as a pro.

Flames development camp profiles

  • RexLibris

    I know this may sound silly, but does anyone feel a little bit like we are getting our Center position set up pretty damn well?

    Backlund (1b/2 potential)
    Monahan (1/2 potential)
    Knight (2nd potential)
    Horak (3rd potential)

    Granlund (2/3rd potential)
    Arnold (3rd potential)
    Jankowski (? who knows..)
    Reinhart (3/4th potential)
    Bouma (3/4th potential)
    Jones (4th line)

    And these being the best / closest there are many more. I think back 2 years ago and I felt dismal about our prospects.

    I hope some of these can compliment our other pieces and set us up in the coming years.

    • BurningSensation

      I made a similar point yesterday. In the last year and change Feaster has added Monahan, Jankowski and Knight to our center prospects.

      From ‘Nope’ to ‘Hope’ in 13 months!

    • Jeff Lebowski

      I wouldn’t say that, but I think that we have awesome 2-4th line center prospect dept. Goalie depth is awesome too assuming that Ramo can be an NHL goalie that gives lots of time for the others to come along.

      LW is pretty decent,

      I think our biggest problem now is shallow RW pool and lack of true ELITE talent (which is why oilers are very much ahead of us).

      If we could grab us a top 5 this year and really aim to steal 1st overall next I think we would be really set up.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        I don’t think RW is as much of a problem as a lot of people think it is. Emile Poirier is proof that what a player is listed at isn’t necessarily true (Rene Bourque was too, since he’s always been listed at LW for no apparent reason).

        Also, Gaudreau and Gordon both played RW at dev camp. Just saying.

        • Jeff Lebowski

          Yeah you may be “right”, 😉 I was aware of Poirier playing there but not much else. I mean if we can make non centers play center then surely the right wing would be easier.

          I watched the games on the stream (I am in Ontario) but with a view from only one end I wasn’t doing well at tracking who was playing where.

          If we finish bottom 5 again and manage to dump 1-2 vets for a few 2nds I wonder if we jump up the prospect pool from 10th in the league to top 5 (10 according to cory p)

          Man I can’t wait to see Johnny G in flames silks. The amount of Aggravation the flames have given me the last few years the rebuild (so far) has felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    To the point of the article, we are all very excited to see what Johnny G can do in the AHL and NHL. Considering his skill level, he would easily make the squad in Calgary.

    He sounds like he likes the organization and I do believe he will stick it out with us. He mentioned “Hopefully they want me next year at the end of the year and hopefully I can come in and make an impact for them.,” re 2014-2015.

    I think it is the right move for a 5’8 and 158lb guy to stay another year in college and bulk up and aim for 170lbs and maybe he even grows another inch. He will need the mass to help him with the physical part at the next level.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    The more I’ve learned about Johnny G reasoning for going back the more at ease and confident I am that he will wear the flaming C soon enough.

    I know this isn’t his game per se, but every player will face all different kinds of situations on the ice at some point. If Johnny is on the wall in his own zone and the puck is coming around the boards, is he strong enough to get it out with a big d man crashing down and he HAS to get it out? You don’t have to be over 6′ but you do have to be strong on your skates, strong legs.

    Everyone talks about how elusive he is but some plays you just have to be able to hold your ground. He’s mentioned that he doesn’t want to be a liability out there.

    I respect his choice so much more.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    The prospects looked great no doubt, but IF they make pro and how they play against pros in a pro environment (grind, pressure, cut throat business etc) is required.

    25-35 yo men, who have been weight training for years, practicing and refining their craft for years are who these kids have to beat. Just look at any established NHLer in street clothes to see how strong and developed one needs to be (not even considering skills) just to step on the ice.

    Realistically, only a fraction of the campers will make it all the way.

    It’s good to dream a little though.

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Thanks Ryan, how to poke that wound that was starting to heal. Brent, I’ll be happy when he’s inked to a 3 year ELC. Until then, I will be as nervous as a duck floating in a crocodile infested river. A lot of crap can happen when the moment of truth happens. What’s he gonna say to the hording media, no I don’t want to play in Calgary, I’d rather be playing in Jersey or Philly or my favorite team Boston? Yeah right, he’s a College kid, he aint stupid.

  • Purple Hazze

    I always read about the risk of him not signing here and leaving as a free agent. A question I have for anyone here should they know; I read somewhere earlier this year that because Johnny G went straight into the NCAA that he would actually have to wait a year after completing his four years of college before he became a free agent. Essentially he would have to sit out a year.

    Can anyone confirm if that is the case? If it is, I can’t see him signing anywhere but here.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Just read that chunk of the CBA, and that’s not quite the case. If a player is in his 4th year of college and scheduled to graduate, then he becomes an unrestricted free agent after the upcoming August 15th.

      He’d have to wait a year to become a free agent if he left college after this season but chose not to sign with the Flames, though.

  • RKD

    Flames brass didn’t seem overly impressed that Gaudreau was going to play another year of college hockey with his kid brother. In the presser, Feaster wanted him to sign with this organization sooner than later.

  • Citizen David

    I’m an Oilers fan but I’m not here to troll. I’m watching the flames rebuild with great interest. This is my take on Gaudreau: cheer like crazy for him, get excited about his achievements but until he proves he can play in the show exercise cautious optimism. College hockey is not in the upper bracket of hockey’s food chain of skill. The Oilers have watched Linus Omark who has destroyed every league on the planet, We have Toni Rajala and Mark Arcobello two pint sized forwards who can light up the AHL and now just signed Andrew Miller who was a point a game player through college. But Omark failed, Arcobello and Miller are considered a long shots long shot. Only Rajala appears to have some hope but it’s still viewed skeptically. That is why I will not have much fear of Gaudreau until he instils it in me.

    • Citizen David

      I remember being impressed with Rajala years ago, but since then he must have just run in place–or maybe even regressed. At least, until this year, because his name has started to crop up again. Killer talent, but not sure if there’s a spot for him on the Oilers as they are. Maybe if Perron takes a long term injury.

      Omark I was never a fan of. I remember arguing with a few Oilers fans (again, years ago) who were all super excited about his potential. I didn’t think there was anything to him aside from his hands. Honestly he was a better pro than I expected him to be.

  • Franko J

    @ Citizen David

    No doubt about it, smaller players do have a more difficult time making it to the NHL. Historically, in hockey, GM’s, coaches and scouts are influenced by size rather than skill or speed. It is just a given the bigger the player the stronger the player. Unfortunately even you look at this years draft, the stereotype still rings true with most of players being selected. On the other hand, I’d rather like to think no matter what the size a player is I consider compete level, skill and speed to be just as important attributes.

    The difference why a player like Gallagher in Montreal or Parise have had success at the NHL level is they are willingly playing in the “dirty” areas on the ice. Even players who do have size, are afraid to play in those areas most the time.

  • Franko J

    @ Citizen David

    He definitely has the compete level, skill and speed, however in limited viewing I’m not sure about his ability to play in traffic or in the “dirty” areas. If I was to make a comparable (at Gaudreau’s current development) with a player on the Oilers I would say Eberle. Both very skilled forwards and like Eberle before he made the Oilers he has to build up some bulk for the rigours of competing against men. Again you hear the term ” if he was 6’2 and 195 lbs he would be definetly a top 10 pick”. In this years draft a player who I liked was Taylor Cammarata. I’m curious to see how he is going to develop.

    The interesting thing is that no matter how good a player is at the junior, college, European, etc. when it comes to sticking in the NHL there is a maturation process every player must go through to be successful. Like any prospect it takes time and patience.