The Vancouver Canucks have made several changes to the top six in recent weeks, and the team is trying to find new ways to win games. Monday night’s home game against the Montréal Canadiens showed that the Canucks have found ways to grind out a victory, with head coach Travis Green’s side digging out a win in the final moments. Having trailed 1-0 for most of the game, the club put centre Adam Gaudette on the top line alongside captain Bo Horvat. The gamble paid off; Gaudette scored in the final 40 seconds of the third period to send the game to overtime. Vancouver won the shootout to end the game 2-1.
This was not the first time that Gaudette had been converted from a centre to a wing this season. The 24-year-old’s new role has helped him to become a more productive forward, and he has been scoring more points as a result. He has registered four points (one goal, three assists) in his last five games, and he is shifting between different line combinations to improve his game. The changes in tactics have allowed him to interchange between centre and wing, and he told the media that he has been made to “feel comfortable in either position” in the top six. He has begun to show an improvement in confidence as a result of playing at wing and aims to build consistency as the season goes on.
Canucks Know Of Gaudette’s Scoring Potential
Vancouver drafted Gaudette in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, but he did not head to the NHL straight away. The Massachusetts-native moved back to his home state to play at Northeastern University and became one of the NCAA’s most prolific centres during his three-year stint. He had 142 points (68 goals, 74 assists) in 116 appearances for the Huskies, winning the Hobey Baker Award and the Beanpot tournament in his final season. Gaudette moved to Vancouver in March 2018 to join the Canucks and played five games of the 2017-18 NHL season.
Gaudette’s tenure with Northeastern suggested that he could be a top-six forward for the Canucks, and he began his professional hockey career as a centre on the team’s third line. He had 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 56 games during his rookie season, which was not a bad start to life as a Canuck. The 2019-20 season was his best campaign to date, as he recorded 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 59 games. He had started to become a useful player, as well as a reliable points scorer and offensive weapon.
The Canucks put more trust in Gaudette to challenge for a place in the top six and signed him to a new one-year deal in October 2020, but he struggled to hit the ground running in the 2020-21 season. Fans got frustrated that he had not scored a goal in 16 games, and some wondered if he would ever find the net. However, the game against Montréal would put an end to some of those doubts.
Gaudette’s Previous Form Did Not Concern Him
Gaudette had spent most of the season playing on the bottom six with forwards such as Jake Virtanen and Brandon Sutter, and all three players had difficulty in scoring. The lack of productivity affected his game, but he was not letting his struggles get the better of him. He did what he could to gradually regain his confidence on the ice, and he persevered with scoring and creating chances.
Gaudette admitted that he “can’t take [his] foot off the gas” (Taken from “Gaudette emerges as unlikely hero in Canucks’ comeback win over Canadiens” – Sportsnet – 3/9/21) now that he has started to find scoring chances easier to come by. His coach sees Gaudette’s change in fortunes as a a learning curve for the whole team, which has now won three games in a row. He has settled into a new role on the wing, and his recent statistics show that he plans to stay on the wing if it benefits his style this season.