(Ryan attended Boston College’s most recent game. Here are his thoughts on the play of BIll Arnold, John Gaudreau and BC in general)
It didn’t take Johnny Gaudreau long to make an impact in his first home game of the year. Just 2:03 into the contest against RPI he carried the puck into the attacking zone, moved the puck through the legs of the first defender he encountered then chipped it over the stick of the next, finding linemate Kevin Hayes, who shed a defender of his own and deked around Jason Kasdorf to put BC up 1-0 (see .gif above).
Such is the power of Gaudreau, the prohibitive favorite for the Hobey Baker award (presented to college hockey’s most outstanding player). He also had an assist in BC’s first game, setting up the only goal his team scored in a strange 3-1 loss to Michigan three days earlier.
BC was in fact off to a rather strange start altogether. That BC goal Gaudreau set up was the Eagles’ second of the game and also wound up its last of the period. Outshot 13-2 in the first 20, the score was nonetheless tied 1-1. Then Gaudreau flat-out took over the game. He drew a penalty on a partial break that led to a power play goal he himself scored. On BC’s first five shots, Gaudreau either made the pass that set it up or took the shot himself on four of them (fellow Flames prospect Billy Arnold Picked up a secondary assist by winning the draw). BC scored again on the next shift, 13 seconds later. The game was well and truly in hand despite the Eagles having been outshot by a factor of 3:1.
The game completely turned on its ear, the Eagles went on to win 7-2 in a game that, based on the scoreline, you would never have thought was ever in doubt. Let alone that the Eagles had essentially had their asses handed to them for the first half of the game against a good but notably inferior opponent.
This is, one suspects, the kind of thing BC will actually have to face a lot this year. The Eagles have for more than a decade at this point been one of the three or four best teams in college hockey every single year, and anyone who figured they were going to run to a national title probably wouldn’t have been all that far off. But those days, perhaps, are over. At least for the time being. The Eagles are relying heavily on young and even first-year players on defense — they are, make no mistake, of high quality but they’re also exceedingly young and perhaps not long for the college hockey ranks at all — and in net, where they’re playing a kid who, while being perhaps one of the best American-born goaltending prospects in the past few years, won’t turn 18 until early December. This is not necessarily the best way to succeed in college hockey, but you make do with what you have.
That’s why Gaudreau and Arnold will be so very important for the Eagles this year: They’re going to have these kinds of games, especially early in the season, and they’re going to need veteran leaders to bail them out. Everything for the Eagles, essentially, is going run through those two. Gaudreau kills penalties a little bit but not a ton, and thus Arnold, a consummate two-way center, will have to carry a big load there. The percentage of the Eagles offense that will go through their diminutive third-year production giant is likely to be extraordinarily high; already he has points on four of BC’s eight goals, just a year after figuring into the scoring on 51 of 128.
A thing to remember about Gaudreau, and how revelatory he’s been pretty much since he arrived on campus, is that a good and completely respectable four-year college career typically results in a forward scoring 100 points. Gaudreau currently sits on 99 two games into his third season (81 games total), and looks a likely candidate to get to as many as 150 or even 160 by the time the year is over. That’s 99 in 81 games for Gaudreau, compared with Arnold, who’s been very good as well, and has 94 in 121 games.
To give you an idea of the kind of quality we’re talking about here, Columbus’s Cam Atkinson, who had 124 career points in 117 games three years at BC in more or less the same role, had far better talent around him. The Rangers’ Chris Kreider had 92 points over 114 games. Chicago’s Jimmy Hayes finished his three-year college career with just 81 points in 117.
The difference between any of those three players, as far as I’m concerned (as a person who saw them all play dozens of times in their college careers), is that they don’t have what Gaudreau has in terms of their abilities to immediately turn games around. They are more in line with Arnold: Very, very good college players, perhaps even great ones, who fit very well into systems and excelled at piling on the misery for teams simply because they were so much better than everyone else.
I’m not sure any but Gaudreau was a real threat to turn an entire game around with one shift, one move, one second of acceleration through a defense. Whether it translates to the pro game — and this was the subject of some debate in the press box over the weekend — is obviously something we can only wait to find out, because Gaudreau still has shows upon shows to put on before his college career is finished.
However, given the way things have started this year, I can’t imagine he’ll be playing amateur hockey all that much longer.
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