Five things: Mostly prospects


1. Gaudreau’s weekend

I have seen Johnny Gaudreau do a lot of ultra-impressive things over the last three seasons but I’ve never seen him do anything like what he unleashed in the NCAA tournament on Saturday and Sunday. Maybe I’ve never seen anyone do anything like that. Not in person, certainly.

In Boston College’s first-round game against Denver, Gaudreau scored his first career NCAA hat trick (this seems like it would be impossible but I double-checked everyone else’s double-check and indeed, he’d never scored three in a game; he had, however, scored twice like two dozen times in his 118 games). He also had three assists. This merely tied his career high for points in a game. The Eagles, by the way, won 6-2.

In that game, and in the 4-3 win over UMass Lowell that came the next day — in which he had “just” two assists and was instrumental in the cycle that set up the game-winner even if he didn’t have a point on it — it was Gaudreau doing everything he’s ever done well. He scampered ahead to create the 3-on-1 that led to their first goal against Lowell. He worked possession to score just 25 seconds into the game against Denver. He was, in a word, magnificent in a way that he really hasn’t been in many games, which really is saying something special.

And to top it all off, that 3-5-8 point line he compiled in two games were against the Nos. 3 and 1 goaltenders in NCAA hockey this season, which is obviously no small feat. You run out of nice things to say except, “Good lord, he’s the best.”

2. But…

With all that having been said, it’s important to keep in mind the will-he/won’t-he saga that’s been ongoing for some time now. Some people have told me definitively he won’t sign with Calgary this summer. Others have felt the same way about his flight to the pros being imminent as soon as BC’s season ends, which will either be on Thursday or Saturday of next week.

All agree that he literally has nothing left to prove in the college ranks, but over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of noise about his not-going. You could have written that off as lip service, to his parents or his teammates or the NCAA in general, because teams don’t like to hear players say, “Oh yeah, after this season, I’m gone,” even if they are. His talent is so rare that I can’t imagine I’ve seen anyone like him come through college hockey in my 20 years watching it, but all those quotes about getting his degree, etc. are somehow more believable.

And also there’s this: A story came out of what is more or less his hometown newspaper on Thursday morning, and the words contained therein have to be a dagger in the guts of Flames fans everywhere.

“If the management they had there before was there, like (former general manager Jay) Feaster, the ones that drafted him, I’d be really comfortable letting him go,” [his father] Guy Gaudreau said. “I know that (Calgary president of hockey operations) Brian Burke likes big boys, big hockey players. My son is not a big hockey player. He’s made it clear that he likes him or whatever, but I don’t think he’s sold on him. That’s been John all his life, wherever he tried out. It’s always been, ‘He’s got to prove himself, prove himself, prove himself.’ He’s done that over and over and over.”

Again, maybe this is all to get leverage. But maybe it isn’t. How much more leverage does the kid need than his 77 points (and counting) this season? One has to imagine that if Gaudreau announces his intentions to return to school for his fourth and final season once Boston College either gets bounced or wins at the Frozen Four, that might just be a death knell for the chances he plays with Calgary. Because if he makes it to Aug. 15, 2015, without having signed with Calgary, he’s a straight-up unrestricted free agent, and the line for a player of his quality would be around the block, no matter how big he was.

3. Gillies ain’t comin’

At least not yet. 

Another issue for the Flames’ farm system arose when Jon Gillies, just days after giving a “No comment,” when asked if he would turn pro this summer, confirmed via his own Instagram that he was, “officially ready for one more year in Friartown.” Which is to say, not Abbotsford.

I think this makes a lot of sense. As good as Gillies is, he didn’t have the greatest season (by his standards) and you very rarely see goaltenders jump to the pros after just two seasons in college to begin with. They take longer to develop, and as with Gaudreau, you never hear people complain about leaving a prospect to toil in lower levels of the development system for too long.

All things considered, he’ll probably be back to normal next season, and for him “normal” means “stellar.” He wasn’t going to be with the Flames next season anyway. Guess it doesn’t really matter where he develops for a little while longer.

4. Speaking of goalies

Abbotsford recently signed Doug Carr, a 25-year-old goaltender out of the aforementioned UMass Lowell program, to an amateur tryout contract. In his last three seasons, Carr posted a save percentage of .922 in 64 games, including an age-23 campaign in which he was arguably the best goaltender in the country for a Lowell team that went to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years.

Not that I am the world’s greatest evaluator of goaltender talent but I can see him being a reasonably successful AHLer for a number of years. He’s a little on the old side, obviously, to be a prospect, but he’s 6-foot-2, he moves well, and he’s typically in pretty good position; discounting last season, when he reportedly had vision problems that really kept his save percentage down (.897), he’s posted lines of 2.13/.928 and 1.80/.936.

This strikes me as being a good value pickup for the organization who might be able to spell Joni Ortio when necessary and maybe hang around for a few years until Gillies is the No. 1 guy down there. Nothing wrong with that.

5. On the current state of the NHL club

Who loses to Toronto? Haha, man oh man.

  • piscera.infada

    I can’t really say that I have any worries about Johnny Gaudreau himself. That, if it were up to him, he’d come to Calgary after his season was finished and sign no problems.

    No, where I do worry, is that it increasingly seems like his parents might be falling into the ‘Lindros’ mold of parenting where everything is endless negotiation and manipulation. The parents deciding when he will leave college, what city he will play in, how much ice time he should be getting, evaluating the franchise as to whether or not it’s ‘suitable,’ etc.

    In fact, I’m starting to detect a slowly building PR campaign by Gaudreau’s parents for hm not to come to Calgary, ever. First, it’s mommy wanting him to have a prom. Then, it’s his dad saying Burke only likes big players. What’s next, I wonder?

    If Gaudreau doesn’t sign this summer, than a trade has to be made. Waiting until next summer would be foolish.

    • piscera.infada

      Completely agree. The ‘parents in the media’ thing is also a bit of a red flag to me. To take it to the extreme, we can have a look at the recent saga with RGIII in the NFL (different sport, I know) – but his father seems to have a lot of clout, not only in his son’s decisions, but by extension the Washington organization. That’s definitely not something you want, and it seems to run contra the “identity” the team is trying to cultivate here.

      By no means am I saying you trade Gaudreau beacause his parents flap their jibs about parental goings-on, but I would be very wary if this keeps up. The last thing you want is for this to turn into a case of a player running an organization – it doesn’t matter how starved the org is for skill.

  • seve927

    You’ve got to dig pretty hard to find any parents comments. They’re not asking for any publicity, it’s media looking for something to report. Nothing to see here. Not yet.

    • piscera.infada

      Agreed. It’s something to keep your eye on if the organization is doing it’s due dillegence though. That’s all. I’m not sure I buy the hype train regarding any of this – I think he’ll sign. But I do agree that if he’s not signed after his season this year, it’s probably time to start finding suitors.

  • Michael

    JG will sign with Calgary because it is the right thing to do .Surely ,a college education would have taught him that.If he decided he did,nt like Calgary after a year ,i,
    ‘am sure management would accomadate a move at that point.

    I was hoping for an update on how well the Oilers are doing Ryan. Maybe you could fill us in on how management has improved up there.

  • piscera.infada

    JG will sign with Arnold after the Frozen Four…

    He is grateful Calgary drafted him, even if Feaster isn’t here anymore, that still means something..

  • BitGeek

    Burke has already told the Gaudreau family that he will sign Johnny if he wishes to turn pro after this season. He has said to the family that he recognizes the talent that JG has and wants him to be part of the organization.

    If Burke wants to play spin doctor then he should be using his preference of bigger players as a way to entice Gaudreau not scare him away.

    If I were Burke I’d be telling them that a talent like JG needs to be protected by bigger line mates and that if he came to Calgary he’d be surrounded by big guys looking out for him. Johnny would have an opportunity to flourish on a bigger team that’s going to use its size to JGs advantage and with Calgary accelerating their rebuild, then Johnny would see lots of playing time too.

    Just my thoughts.

    • Avalain

      I’m thinking of this the same way that you are. Everything else aside, it seems like JG has the best chance to succeed here (or at least better than most other places).

      On a different note, I’m actually quite happy to hear that Gaudreau hasn’t scored a hattrick this season before now. That, paired with the number of points that he has, shows that he is a consistent threat instead of a streaky player.

  • Avalain

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this as parental meddling. Like it or not folks but for most people in the US Northeast Calgary is like Siberia. That combined with the family liking Feaster and Weisbrod and obviously being less comfortable with Burke means JG signing is far from a sure thing.

  • Michael

    If Gaudreau wants to finish his degree I’m don’t see a problem with signing him next year.
    Having a kid pass up on a lot of money next year to finish his education is a positive sign of the kids character.

    • piscera.infada

      Speaking pragmatically though, he doesn’t have any more development to do in the NCAA – maybe you could argue gaining some strength, but that would likely be better done under the team’s auspices. It would likely be a better economic decision for him to sign an NHL contract and finish his degree on his own time, while making a butt-load of money. Thus, if his choice to forgo the NHL for a season is only to “finish his degree” then you have a very tough decision. From his position, he can wait until August 15, 2015, and basically choose the best offer from the best of 30 teams. As such, the Flames need a contingency plan, so they aren’t left holding the bag at that time, if in fact, Johnny wont sign.

      I still think he signs this season, but you can’t afford to play fast-and-lose with one of your best assets and his “good character”.

        • piscera.infada

          I think it is. I’m definitely not an NHL general manager, but it seems to me, he’s a wanted commodity. However, if it’s known he doesn’t want to sign in Calgary, then time is your friend as far as driving up the market for him – as opposed to scrambling for offers. I think other GMs have you over a barrel either way, but he’s a player other teams will covet, the longer you have to pit them against each other, the less you have to reach for a return. Just my thoughts though, I’m not sure sure how it actually works, just seems logical to me.

          • Byron Bader

            Absolutely agree. Trading his rights at this draft don’t have the urgency nor is there urgency on whoever we would trade him to. That equates to the best value. This friggen Frozen Fourskin is over soon. If he isn’t signed, I am talking to Buffalo & the NYI & maybe even Florida. The add wouldn’t be that significant for a prospect like him & I would try to get a top 5 pick. Beauty is Florida may be picking 2nd. I cant believe I am actually getting uptight about him pulling a Schultz, but the possibility is there & we have to max out his value if we don’t get the honour to watch him be a Flame. I think the Stats show he is worthy of getting us a top 5 pick this year.

    • supra steve

      The problem with JG going back to school is not that the Flames would have to wait another year. The problem is that if we come to this time next year, and he is just finishing his senior season, what’s to stop him from just waiting till Aug 15/15, when he becomes a UFA and is free to sign any deal he likes with any team he likes? Not sure what the $$ limit is for a player coming to the NHL after his 3rd or 4th year of college is, but it is certainly a lot less then he would get as a UFA next summer.

      I hope he turns pro and signs with the Flames in the coming weeks, and I THINK that is what will happen. But if he plays out his fourth year at BC, at a level that is no longer challenging him, then the Flames need to be very nervous about his intentions come next summer.

  • spx03

    Do we have any stats about how common it is for college graduates to excercise their right to free agency or sign with the team they were drafted? Just ballpark.

    • Byron Bader

      I’d guess about 1%. You have several hundred players drafted playing in college right now and I can think of only a few who have done it. There might be a few more that you don’t hear much about.

  • T&A4Flames

    I’m soooooooooooo very tired of this will-he/won’t-he talk with Gaudreau. I would love to have him sign here but seriously, just trade him now to NJD and get a big D man like Severson or Merril back and NJD 2015 1st. We could add, but it seems fair; top prospect for top prospect and NJ can pony up since theyre getting their local boy who could be an offensive dynamo.

  • Ed Wailin'

    Maaaaaan is it ever painfully obvious we are extremely desperate for some elite talent….

    I think that can go two ways, either hurt us by effectively placing too much pressure on jg to be a superstar immediately, or help in the fact that he can in fact become a superstar immediately.

    I fully agree on the “Calgary is siberia” comment however it is a Canadian hockey market after all and could push jg into the spotlight during his elc. I don’t think that would be as likely to happen in nj.

    Burke has literally said verbatim “I like him, he just needs big bodies around to protect him” I don’t see how that is worse off for him than feasters approach.

    Basically I think it boils down to his parents parenting strategy, do they prefer coddling or a hands off approach, and so far the jury’s out on that one still…