Glenn Gawdin is a dark horse pick for an NHL roster spot

The Calgary Flames scouting department used to be pretty rough. They whiffed on their early picks. They whiffed on their free agent signings. As such, it was a challenge for them to replace departing players and find sustainable success.

That hasn’t been the case in recent years. This summer, several internal candidates are vying to replace the departing Garnet Hathaway. One of them, second year pro Glenn Gawdin, is one of the more intriguing dark horse players in camp.

Tremendous junior success

Originally from Richmond, BC, Gawdin was a first round bantam draft pick by the Swift Current Broncos in 2012. He joined the club full-time in 2013-14 and quietly carved out a strong WHL career.

After a 22 point rookie season, Gawdin had three consecutive seasons of 50+ points – 54, 53 and 59 – and developed a reputation as a very effective two-way player. He was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft. But a combination of Gawdin failing to make big strides developing as an offensive player and the Blues losing control of their AHL affiliate (meaning they had fewer minor pro slots) meant the Blues didn’t sign him.

Gawdin re-entered the draft, went unclaimed, and then came to Calgary for Flames development camp as a free agent invite. The Broncos placed the savvy two-way forward with flashy Finn Alexei Heponiemi and Tyler Steenberger and their line exploded – each of them had over 100 points on a Broncos team that won the WHL Championship. Gawdin signed with the Flames early in the season.

Pushing for a roster spot

A year ago, Gawdin was trying to figure out the ins and outs of the pro game in his first pro camp. The season was a big learning experience for the winger.

“Obviously gaining confidence was big, gaining the coaches’ trust was something that I needed to do,” said Gawdin. “I had a good year in my last year in junior, but it’s a different game in the pro level and you kind of need to adjust your game and throughout the year I needed to do that to get put into different situations and play more minutes. So for me it was just getting that trust and getting more minutes – that’s penalty kill, power play, more five on five – but it starts with the trust for them to put you out there.”

After a 38 point rookie season with the Stockton Heat last season, establishing himself as a reliable forward presence, he began this year’s rookie camp centering Dillon Dube and Matthew Phillips as the top line in the first rookie game. He followed up with a slick goal in the opening minute of the second rookie game.

“The three of us, we played together for a little bit of the season last year,” said Gawdin. “Obviously when Dubes was down with us me and Phil played with him for a little bit and we had some pretty good chemistry and I think they noticed that and they put us together. But obviously he’s a great player and I’m happy to be playing with him.”

Gawdin carries a $733,333 cap it at the NHL level and a lot of positional versatility. With Hathaway departing and no obvious replacement for him, Gawdin hopes to make his case for the gig.

“That’s kind of the plan,” said Gawdin. “Obviously you’re going into camp to take a job or make the team. Whatever role that is, I’ll take it. Being a right-handed shot with them losing a right-handed guy, it helps, but at the end of the day it’s up to me to get there.”