When the book is written about the 2014-15 Calgary Flames, there will be at least three chapters devoted to the man they call “Johnny Hockey.” Named John Michael Gaudreau by his parents, this young gaffer took the National Hockey League by storm, delivering highlight reel goals and generally making the Flames scouts look pretty smart.
But beyond all the flash, dash, and sweet-looking goals, has Gaudreau been a difference-maker in terms of the possession game?
As usual, here’s who Gaudreau played 100+ even-strength minutes alongside:
So, Gaudreau’s results are pretty damn impressive for a rookie. But let’s try to be pessimistic here. The big table of results suggests one of two things:
- Gaudreau is not a good possession player, and there are upward-pushing factors underlying the ice-time of everyone but Joe Colborne and Ladislav Smid.
- Gaudreau is a good possession player who makes his teammates better, and Joe Colborne and Ladislav Smid are boat anchors.
I lean towards the second possibility. Now, when we look at Gaudreau’s deployment, you can see how Bob Hartley used him and, shockingly, it’s exactly how you would hope an under-sized, super-skilled rookie would be used.
Tough competition, yes, but tons of offensive zone starts. And despite the tough competition – a product of Hartley’s best-versus-best matches in the regular season – the dark blue indicates that Gaudreau was a positive relative Corsi player. That’s excellent news, particularly for a kid brand-new to pro hockey, insane travel, and the grind that is the National Hockey League.
His only struggles were in the first handful of games, when he seemed to be tentative in terms of his positioning. After his one-game sojourn to the press box, things seemed to snap into place for him.
Gaudreau is a really good hockey player. He was tied for the rookie lead in regular season scoring with 64 points – second on the team – along with 9 points in the playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see what he does as a sophomore, but he put down an excellent foundation with his rookie campaign.