It’s Tuesday afternoon in the bowels of the Scotiabank Saddledome, one week ago. The Swift Current Broncos are in high spirits, having just beaten the Calgary Hitmen in the final game of a road trip – their first win in Calgary in five years. The Broncos were led to victory by their captain Glenn Gawdin, who signed with the Calgary Flames as a free agent in November.
Before Gawdin could tend to his media responsibilities he was met by a large contingent of Flames hockey operations staffers, including president of hockey operations Brian Burke and general manager Brad Treliving. That’s life for the Western Hockey League’s leading scorer, and represents a big reversal of fortune for a player that wasn’t signed by the St. Louis Blues and was passed over upon re-entry into the NHL Draft.
A product of Richmond, British Columbia, Gawdin played his minor hockey in the area and was drafted by the Broncos in 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. He made the leap into the Dub after a productive season in midget with the Greater Vancouver Canadians.
His WHL career has been consistently productive, even before this season.
|Season||Age||GP||G||P||PPG||5v5 P||5v5 P1|
(Stats via Prospect-Stats.com)
Gawdin’s been regarded in WHL circles as a strong 200-foot player basically since his first full season – 0.33 points per game as a 16-year-old rookie is pretty respectable – and his strong overall play saw him get drafted in the fourth round (116th overall) by the Blues in 2015. (The Flames selected Andrew Mangiapane 50 spots later.)
But two factors likely led to the Blues opting not to sign Gawdin: productivity and the NHL’s expansion. In terms of productivity, Gawdin’s two post-draft seasons saw a slight uptick in scoring but not the big jump that’s often see in players that become prospects of note. (For reference, Dillon Dube’s two post-draft seasons have seen him post 1.38 and 1.50 points per game.) The other piece was the NHL expanding to 31 teams, which led to the Blues no longer having an AHL affiliate of their own after Vegas came the new parent of the Chicago Wolves.
From Arch Authority:
That apparently wasn’t enough to sell the Blues on Gawdin, though it’s understandable why they might have felt that signing him would be overkill, as they’re already attempting to develop a multitude of mid-level forward prospects such as Mackenzie MacEachern, Adam Musil, Conner Bleackley, Samuel Blais, and Justin Selman. Since they won’t have an AHL affiliate next season, they’ll have a limited number of AHL roster spots available, and perhaps they felt that it was more sensible to let Gawdin hook on with another organization than to add him to the already large stable of organizational forwards.
Gawdin re-entered the NHL Draft and ended up unclaimed. But the Flames reached out with an invite to their summer development camp. He impressed and earned an invite to participate in the Young Stars Classic tournament in Penticton, and he was good enough there to spend some time in main camp. He ended up finally signing an entry-level contract with the Flames in November.
By the time he signed with the Flames on Nov. 16, he already had 40 points and was well on his way to the best offensive season he’s ever had. Through 65 games, he has 122 points – nine more than the next-best WHLer – and has doubled his best offensive year’s production. He’s always been a smart player who can contribute in all three zones, but he just seems to be exactly where he needs to be with the puck (and able to find his teammates with the puck) this season.
Speaking at the Saddledome after Swift Current’s big win, Gawdin shared that he didn’t think he was doing anything differently than he was in previous seasons. He began the season playing with Panthers prospect Aleksi Heponiemi and Coyotes prospect Tyler Steenbergen, but has since rotated throughout the lineup and maintained his torrid offensive pace.
“I feel like I’m just making the most of my opportunities,” said Gawdin. “I feel like I was always getting chances, and sometimes they weren’t always going in, but I’m definitley getting more chances and kinda just riding a confidence wave. To start this year my linemates included Heponiemi and Steenbergen, we had a good start and we just kinda built off that. Those guys are pretty easy to play with. Steener’s getting close, but Hepo’s over 100 [points], too, so you’re gonna get looks with those guys, it’s just making the most of them.”
For his part, Gawdin seems more focused on team goals than individual goals, which makes sense considering he’s spent four full seasons in the WHL and has made it out of the first round of the playoffs just once.
“If you win the scoring title, you win the scoring title,” said Gawdin. “Basic thing for us is just winning games and hopefully you’re playing in May in the Memorial Cup. That’s our focus and that’s the biggest goal.”
The Broncos begin the WHL playoffs in a couple weeks. Flames fans can see Gawdin there, or wait until development camp in July or prospect camp in September.