It’s widely known across the NHL that one of the keys to being successful is to have depth at the centre position. Looking at some of the more successful teams of late, most have featured at least two great centres with depth behind them. Whether it be Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci with the Boston Bruins, successful teams generally have depth down the middle.
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Elias Pettersson’s smooth transition to the centre position in the NHL was a surprise to some after he played mostly on the wing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). With Pettersson looking like a legitimate superstar centre, and Vancouver Canucks captain Bo Horvat playing the role of a responsible two-way guy, the team hopes that they have their duo down the middle for years to come. However, the Canucks had a third centre emerge this season who proved that he can contribute — Adam Gaudette.
A Diamond in the Rough
Gaudette was selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft and reports say that Judd Brackett, the Canucks director of amateur scouting, played a large role in his scouting. Gaudette played at Northeastern University and improved each season by leaps and bounds until in the he won the Hobey Baker Award in the 2017-18 season for being the top collegiate player. He scored 30 goals and added 30 assists that season and Canucks fans were excited to see him join the professional ranks.
Gaudette never stuck around for very long in the American Hockey League (AHL) and has played the better part of the past two seasons with the Canucks. Yet it was not an easy transition to the NHL for the Massachusetts native as he sometimes looked a step behind the play and struggled to impose his will during his rookie season.
He scored 5 goals and had 7 assists for 12 points in the 56 games he played during his rookie year. Not exactly eye-opening numbers, but those who kept believing in Gaudette were rewarded with a breakout this season.
Gaudette Arrives on the Scene
With other recent Hobey Baker Award winners, including NHL stars such as Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau, Gaudette was in good company. While he didn’t join those two as stars in the NHL, his game took a noticeable leap and he offers the Canucks another depth scorer that becomes so crucial in the playoffs. Gaudette is known around Vancouver for the enthusiasm he shows whenever he scores, and fans were happy to see the kid celebrate more often this season. He scored 12 goals and added 21 assists for 33 points in 59 games this year, solid numbers for someone who only played on the third and fourth lines.
Gaudette showed potential that he could be a 20-goal scorer while being the third center on the roster and the trio of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, and Gaudette could be the best in the NHL when they all mature a bit more.
Gaudette in the Canucks Future Plans
The Canucks are in a cap crunch. There’s no way to get around it and management will have to make decisions, starting this offseason. Gaudette is a restricted free agent this offseason but should likely be signed to a new deal by Vancouver.
Gaudette still needs to improve in his own zone and in the faceoff dot but those things are to be expected from young players. He has shown that the offensive prowess he demonstrated in the collegiate ranks can be transferred over to the NHL, and the Canucks are now set up to be one of the strongest teams down the middle. He is still young and has time to continue to grow and adjust as a player and is evidence of the Canucks great drafting in recent years.