After the undersized Gaudreau was drafted he continued to get better and better at Boston College. In his 3rd and last season at Boston College, he put up offensive numbers not seen in over a decade and was universally considered the Flames’ best prospect. Finally he joined the Flames in the 2014-15 season as a full-time NHLer and appears to be the superstar everybody hoped he would be.
He was given every opportunity to make the Flames club this past year, as they were a depleted group begging for offensive talent. Gaudreau impressed at Penticton, being head and shoulders above any other prospect there. He impressed in the pre-season, registering a point in nearly every game he played and won a spot on the NHL roster for opening night. However, Gaudreau’s NHL career didn’t start off with a bang. In the first five games of the season Gaudreau put up 0 points, had few shots on net and, while showing flashes of brilliance, looked overmatched and destined to join the minors for a stint. Then the water turned on in his 6th game (technically the Flames 7th game of the season as Gaudreau sat out the 6th) against the Winnipeg Jets where Gaudreau started to emerge as an offensive threat, amassing a goal and an assist in the game.
From then on … Gaudreau couldn’t be stopped. He started to earn more and more ice-time, was put on the 1st line with Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler and became very much the offensive engine of the entire organization. Excluding the first five games of the season, Gaudreau went on to score 64 points in 75 games, registering a point per game pace of 0.85. Gaudreau kept right on rolling in the playoffs, putting up 9 points in 11 games, leading the team in scoring.
He’s a big time player. Here’s a few examples why …
The Flames needed to get back into the pre-Christmas match with the Kings to help get the season back on track Gaudreau did this … in LA …
When the Flames needed a win against the Ducks to stay in the series … with the chips down and all odds against them Gaudreau did this … like a boss!
Gaudreau had an amazing college career and had put up offensive totals that few have reached in the modern era (NHLE of 67 in his final year). The players to reach an NHLE of 60 or more before joining the NHL are very limited and nearly every one has gone on to be a superstar. Gaudreau, despite his size and before his breakout rookie year, looked destined for great things and he didn’t disappoint.
Last year, in my Gaudreau reasonable expectations piece, I suggested that if Gaudreau was given plenty of ice-time and offensive opportunity he could register over 50 points and could be in the Calder conversation. Fifty or so points seemed like a safe number but even then I was still deemed a “optimistic lunatic” with that prediction and in my head, when I wrote the piece, I thought “I think he’s going to be even better than that.”
After a full year behind him, a year in which he got better and better every game, Gaudreau will fully emerge onto the scene this year and I am fully confident he will find himself as one of the league’s top 10-20 scorers.
Gaudreau has gotten much, much better every year he’s played hockey. For instance, in college he put up 1.0 ppg pace in his rookie year, followed it up by improving by 45% in his sophomore year and then improved from that another 55% in his 3rd year. He left college scoring twice as much as he did when he started a few years before. 64 points in 80 games as an undersized rookie is an amazing start to a player’s career and I think Gaudreau is just getting started!
Anybody who watched the team could see how Gaudreau was getting more and more comfortable in the league and was starting to take over games as the season wore on. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.
Gaudreau will be used as the offensive catalyst from the moment the puck drops this season. That means 1st line time with Monahan and probably Hudler, tons of ice-time, o-zone starts and plenty of powerplay time and he was essentially the QB of the powerplay by the end of the year. Gaudreau kept up a 0.85 PPG over 86 games (last 75 games of the season and the playoffs) and finished 29th in league scoring. I would expect he will be able to keep that up if not expand on it in his second year. A scoring rate of 0.85 – 1.00 ppg rate would put Gaudreau between 70 to 80 points over a full season, easily top 10 category. I would expect he will lead the team in scoring, barring another incredible run by Giordano where he doesn’t get injured or Hudler having another career year.
This little guy is likely the next great Flames superstar and the expectations, rightfully so, are sky-high.