Flames’ Gawdin Needs to Seize Opportunity with Richardson Out

On Monday afternoon, the Calgary Flames announced their 23-man roster to begin the 2021-22 NHL season. The final roster included 24-year-old Glenn Gawdin, who has had a good enough training camp to remain with the club. He has performed well in the American Hockey League (AHL) across 139 games and posting 31 goals and 97 points. His play was noticed in 2019-20 when he was invited to the AHL All-Star game.

During the 2020-21 season, Gawdin was called up to play with the Flames in February before the Stockton Heat’s season had really gotten going. He played seven games with the big club and earned one assist against the Ottawa Senators. This preseason he performed well enough to earn a spot on the roster, but with Brad Richardson currently out, his spot on the team isn’t a guaranteed one.

Strong Preseason for Gawdin

Gawdin played in six of the Flames’ eight preseason games and scored two goals. His first goal came shorthanded against the Seattle Kraken when he gained the zone and fired the puck over the shoulder of Chris Driedger. His second preseason goal came against the Winnipeg Jets when he came off the bench and snuck behind the defense, who were busy watching Matthew Tkachuk. He took the pass from Tkachuk and snapped it past Connor Hellbyuck’s blocker.

During the preseason, he looked much more comfortable and up to the pace of play than in his early audition with the team in February of 2021. Via Natural Stat Trick, Gawdin’s preseason Corsi for (CF%) sat at 39.74%, which ranked him 24th of 32 Flames’ players that played in the preseason. Contrary to that, his expected goals for percentage (xGF%) was 51.58% which ranked him 10th out of 32. Digging a little deeper and his high-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%) of 71.43% was second on the team, behind only Johnny Gaudreau (84.62%).

So what does that all mean? Gawdin was bleeding shots against but more of high-volume and low-quality shots by looking at just the numbers. He was also creating more high-danger chances than he was allowing while on the ice. There will be more to unpack in his upcoming audition, but it seems he’s starting to figure things out in the NHL.

Time with Calgary Not a Guarantee

One part of the reason Gawdin made the team was for his play and that Brad Richardson is on the injured reserve (IR) to start the season. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be sent down to Stockton once Richardson comes back, but he will have to continue earning his spot on the team until that happens.

“I think throughout the pre-season, I was confident and comfortable with how I was playing, but nothing is for sure. I think everybody knows that in the hockey world. I was just trying to take it day-by-day and do what I could to stick around.”

Glenn Gawdin, calgaryflames.com

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Darryl Sutter has been known to prefer established veterans over rookies, and with the signings made in the offseason, it will be no different this year. Richardson can come off the IR as soon as Oct. 15, but it is currently not clear how long he will be out of the lineup. He was not skating on Thursday with the main group, which should mean he is out for one or possibly two games. That gives Gawdin a short window to continue to prove to the coaching staff that he is ready to become an everyday NHLer.

Gawdin Has the Tools to Stick with Flames

Sutter gave his praise to Gawdin in a recent press conference when asked about the rookie’s play.

“A lot of it is, this is how im going to play and doesn’t mean I’m going to play opening night, or during the year, or be on the roster, it’s got nothing to do with that. Its got to do with, how am I going to play in the NHL? What do I have to do to play in the NHL? and that is as a third or fourth line guy, or an identity line guy, that type of player. So I think he did a good job of understanding that and then applying that and he had a good camp.”

Darryl Sutter, calgaryflames.com

Most Flames fans know it’s not easy to gain praise from Sutter in a press conference. He was pleased that Gawdin understood what they told him during last season’s exit meetings and that he was able to go out and show what he learned during the 2021-22 preseason. Now it’s time for Gawdin to continue putting together the pieces to fully earn his spot once Richardson returns, and decisions will need to be made around the roster.

Gawdin has proven his abilities in the AHL and come Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, it will be up to him to prove he can cut his teeth in the NHL. He’s shown Sutter that he has the mentality to take on any role he’s given to play in the NHL and it already seems the head coach has a role picked out for him. Like Gawdin said himself, as long as he takes it day-by-day, and if he continues to play well, he will steal a spot from one of the veterans in the lineup.

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