This coming May is the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary. To commemorate this occasion, we’re counting down the Top 40 Calgary Flames in history.
#9 on the list is former college star Johnny Gaudreau.
Way, way back in 2011, the Flames were preparing for the NHL Draft. There was a small kid playing in the USHL. He was a great offensive player, but he was small, you see. (He was listed by Central Scouting at 5’6″ and 137 pounds.) So the Flames set both Gaudreau and Nikita Kucherov aside from their “regular” rankings and general manager Jay Feaster gave head scout Tod Button permission to make the call to select one of them with one of their picks. The Flames were lucky enough that Gaudreau fell into their laps at 104th overall. (Funny story: then-Boston GM Jim Benning owned a stake in Gaudreau’s USHL team, so the Flames tried to hide their interest in him by buying tickets to his games rather than attending as scouts.)
After three dazzling NCAA seasons at Boston College, Gaudreau went pro with the Flames at the tail end of the 2013-14 campaign – the Flames sent a private plane and Craig Conroy to convince Gaudreau to sign after the Hobey Baker Award ceremony. Gaudreau flew to Vancouver and scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game.
Six seasons later, Gaudreau has emerged as possibly the most game-breaking and dynamic player the Flames have had in decades – perhaps since the lofty days of Kent Nilsson. And unlike Nilsson, Gaudreau back-checks. Despite being a teeny, tiny man, Gaudreau has become one of the most dangerous offensive players in the NHL. He’s hit 20 goals twice and 30 goals twice. Last season, he hit 99 points – he was a stat correction secondary assist away from being the first Flames player with 100 points since 1992-93.
Is Gaudreau a perfect player? Well, no. Defensively, he’s hardly Mikael Backlund. But to steal a phrase: they don’t call you Johnny Hockey if you’re bad at hockey. Gaudreau’s not great at everything, but the things he’s good at he’s among the very best at when he’s on his game. (And even though he was uneven during the 2019-20 season, he was still extremely good at times.)
With two seasons remaining on his current contract, it’s unclear what the long-term future holds for Gaudreau in Calgary. But at the very least, he’s established himself as one of the top offensive weapons they’ve ever had. He’s #9 on our all-time list.
Arrival: Selected in the fourth round, 104th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (June 25, 2011)
Awards: 2016-17 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy winner
Top 40 Calgary Flames: HM Martin Gelinas | HM Al Coates | HM Bob Johnson | HM Darryl Sutter | #40 Brad Marsh | #39 Matt Stajan | #38 Jiri Hudler | #37 Dion Phaneuf | #36 Guy Chouinard | #35 Phil Housley | #34 Matthew Tkachuk | #33 Cory Stillman | #32 Curtis Glencross | #31 Jamie Macoun | #30 Carey Wilson | #29 Reggie Lemelin | #28 TJ Brodie | #27 Alex Tanguay | #26 Daymond Langkow | #25 Sergei Makarov | #24 Craig Conroy | #23 Robert Reichel | #22 Paul Reinhart | #21 Doug Gilmour | #20 Mikael Backlund | #19 Jim Peplinski | #18 Joel Otto | #17 Tim Hunter | #16 Joe Mullen | #15 Sean Monahan | #14 Robyn Regehr | #13 Mike Vernon | #12 Kent Nilsson | #11 Hakan Loob | #10 Lanny McDonald