Next up to get his season report card has to be one of the most improved players on the Minnesota Wild roster, second-line center Frédérick Gaudreau. When he joined the team, not a lot was known about him other than what team he came from and that he could be crucial to the center ice position. He went on to finish the regular season sixth among Wild players for scoring.
Gaudreau played in 76 games and scored 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points and another Wild player who set career-highs in goals, assists, and points. He missed six games back in early December due to COVID protocols and that was the only time he was absent from the lineup.
Gaudreau didn’t have as many points as some of his teammates, but he sure knew how to make an impact throughout the season. However, similar to his linemate Kevin Fiala, he missed the boat when it came to the postseason and was not very effective.
Gaudreau Improves His Game
Many Wild players were great in the regular season, but not many made leaps of improvement like Gaudreau did. He had a couple of assists in the first few games of the season. In their first 10 games, he had four points, registered in three of those games with the other seven being pointless. It seemed like he wasn’t going to be a big goal-scorer, but he did come up huge on several occasions.
He didn’t put up high numbers, but as the season continued he kept chipping in points every few games and just consistently chugging along. As things went on, he clearly became more comfortable with his linemates, and his play improved as well. Towards the end of the season, Gaudreau was steadily putting shots on goal every time he took the ice and while he wasn’t noticed in every game he played, he was doing the important things behind the scenes.
Ask any coach and one of the most crucial parts of a player’s game is what they do when they don’t have the puck. Gaudreau was ninth on the team and third amongst forwards with 43 blocked shots. He always knew where everyone was and tried to be in the right place at the right time and focused a lot on his defensive work.
Gaudreau in the Postseason
It’s safe to say Gaudreau’s line had the most disappointing playoffs of the Wild’s four lines. There were high expectations for this line to at least be close in scoring to the top line if not neck in neck. However, the easiest way to describe what happened is they choked. For some reason, their line couldn’t get any scoring going and it hurt them.
Gaudreau scored one goal during Game 2, and it was on the power play that really gave his team some motivation. They did go on to win that game but of course, everyone knows how the rest of the series went. It wasn’t that he didn’t try, but there was just something missing that affected not only his line but nearly the entire team.
Not surprisingly Gaudreau was in the top 10 for blocked shots on the team during the postseason as well. He had four blocked shots and moved up a spot to second among Wild forwards for keeping the puck away from their goaltenders. The real impressive stat he possessed during the postseason was his faceoff percentage. He took 75 faceoffs during their six-game run and he won over half of them with 58.7%, something none of the other Wild’s centers could follow up.
Gaudreau’s Difficult to Grade
If Gaudreau’s grade was based solely on his improvement during the season, he’d have an A. However, things can’t focus on just one part of the game. He didn’t score a lot of goals throughout the season and wasn’t expected to. He was brought in to fill gaps in the center position that the Wild have had issues with in the past. He had a decent faceoff percentage through the regular season, winning half of his total faceoffs for an even 50%.
Taking that into account and everything throughout the entire season, playoffs included, Gaudreau’s grade is one above Fiala’s, an A-. He deserves a higher grade because he was successful in the postseason behind the scenes. He wasn’t as effective on the offensive side of things similar to his whole line but he stepped up defensively with those four blocked shots and that earned him the higher mark.
He still has one more year left on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If he can continue to improve like he did this season, the Wild’s second line could become very strong next season depending on what happens with Fiala. Gaudreau turned out to be a very underrated asset the Wild should try to hang on to. He was fairly successful in the faceoff circle and he helped complete the second line that became a force in the second half of the season and they’ll need that next year.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW. She’s been covering the Wild at THW since October of 2020 and specializes in game takeaways and weekly check-ins. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team to help fans connect on a more personal level and to keep an eye on the latest follow her on Twitter @MariahEStark.