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.”
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.”
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.