Give Adam Gaudette credit, the young Vancouver Canucks center is taking advantage of his chances. Called up only last week, in the Nov. 12, 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators, Gaudette had two points (a goal and an assist) with the man advantage to help his team halt its losing streak at four games.
The team now sits with a 10-6-3 record and is in third place in the Pacific Division. It’s a good team that, to my eye, seems to be getting better. I’m hoping Gaudette can become a part of that “better” team.
Gaudette’s first point was an assist on Tanner Pearson’s second-period goal. Then, the 23-year-old center scored a tap-in goal on a third-period rebound to restore a one-goal lead for the Canucks. That goal gave him six points in nine games this season.
As recently as Nov. 9 he was watching his team play the Winnipeg Jets from the press box, things have changed quickly for Gaudette. Similar to last season, he is now playing big minutes as a result of the team missing centers Jay Beagle (his injury is undisclosed) and Brandon Sutter (who left the Predators’ game with a lower-body injury).
Is This the Opportunity Gaudette Needs?
Perhaps this is the chance Gaudette needs to cement himself onto the Canucks’ roster. He had an amazing preseason and training camp, but he wasn’t able to stick with the team after the regular season began. It’s been up and down between the Canucks and the Utica Comets.
However, if Gaudette can take advantage of the extended time he’s receiving covering for his teammates’ injuries, his second season with the Canucks might give him the experience he needs to transition from success in the minors to success in the NHL. It hasn’t happened yet, and it hasn’t been as easy as many expected.
However, I predict it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a regular with the Canucks. But will it be this season? Should it be?
Gaudette’s 2018-19 Season: Too Soon, Too Fast
It isn’t as if Gaudette didn’t have skills or pedigree. He’s a solid young prospect from Braintree, Massachusetts (close to Boston). He led U.S. college hockey in scoring and won the Hobey Baker Trophy in 2018. He was chosen in the fifth round (#149 overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. However, so far, he simply hasn’t translated that collegiate success into success at the NHL level.
However, his struggles last season might be due to last season’s circumstances rather than Gaudette’s prowess as a player. The Canucks were too desperate for bodies to allow him the developmental time he needed with their American Hockey League’s Comets.
Specifically, the Canucks were in a situation where covering for injuries demanded that Gaudette stayed with the NHL club and the team felt forced to push him harder than planned.
Gaudette was promoted early in the 2018-19 season, and he stayed in Vancouver. However, he couldn’t his game on track. His scoring was inconsistent, with only five goals and 12 points in 56 games. There were also times when he looked in over his head defensively.
2019-20 Is a New Start for Gaudette
This preseason he was different. He prepared for training camp and looked good in preseason games. I recall that, during one preseason game, the announcer kept saying his name – over and over. Gaudette seemed to always be in the middle of the action.
In fact, he led the team with four goals in six preseason games and gained confidence in each game he played. He outplayed almost everyone else competing for a roster spot; and, he was still around after the team made its final cuts.
Will Gaudette Return to Utica?
His future remains undecided, but if Gaudette wants to stick in Vancouver, he has to play well enough to overcome one disadvantage: he’s waiver exempt. That fact begs the question: Even if he does well, will he keep his place on the roster?
Some believe he should be sent down to Utica for more steady work and because the Canucks have roster and salary-cap limits to work around. Gaudette is among the few forwards who can be moved between the NHL and the AHL without clearing waivers.
I hope he stays. However, if he isn’t going to play steadily with the Canucks, it might be better for his long-term development to have more consistent playing time with the Comets instead of fourth-line minutes with the Canucks.
That said, his recent play has built up the hopes of Canucks fans that he might become an important piece of a youthful core that includes Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko, and Quinn Hughes. The team will only get better as these players gain experience.
What’s Next for Gaudette?
Will head coach Travis Green play Gaudette regularly now that he’s been called up? And, if he does, can he deliver? If he doesn’t or can’t, why not let him hone his craft in Utica where he can develop his skills while playing big minutes?
Right now, he’s on the Canucks roster. I hope he plays well. But, I also have a long-term view. This is probably not their season to go on a deep Stanley Cup run. Given that reality, if he isn’t going to play regularly, he should be moved down.