Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau loved playing in the Canucks Young Stars Classic.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s top player last season said it was an exciting week.
“I think I have been playing pretty well. It’s definitely tough to adjust to playing with different players,” said Gaudreau who has skated alongside Sam Bennett, the fourth overall pick from the 2014 NHL entry draft. “We have a great group of guys in our locker room. It’s a lot of fun playing with a different bunch of guys, learn from guys and how they play.”
Playing with Bennett has been fun for Gaudreau, also known as Johnny Hockey.
“He’s a really talented player. When you get a chance to play with a talented player like that, it’s just going to make yourself become better,” said Gaudreau, who feels he has developed chemistry with Bennett. “I’ve been fortunate to get the chance to play with him for a few games.”
Asked about his highlight reel goal in the opening game of the Young Stars Classic, Gaudreau said he noticed the Jets defenceman stay flat footed.
“I thought I just try to make a move and thankfully got around him and got a quick backhand off,” said Gaudreau, who finished with two goals and three points in three games.
During his four-year career with Boston College, Gaudreau scored 78 goals and finished with 175 points in 119 games. He hopes to continue his point-producing ways at the pro level.
“Definitely not going to be a fourth-line grinder in the NHL,” he joked. “If I’m going to make the NHL, I need to make sure I’m reliable in the offensive zone. Make sure I don’t give up any goals in the defensive zone.”
Gaudreau has been honing his defensive zone play the past six years and feels he’s getting better. However, he realizes he needs to step it up in the NHL.
Having one NHL game under his belt from last season, Gaudreau, who formed college hockey’s most dangerous line with fellow Flames prospect Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes, said it gave him comfort while playing in Penticton.
“I feel pretty good about it,” he said.
He also came into the tournament with experience from representing Team U.S.A. at the world championships in Belarus. In eight games, he collected two goals and 10 points and was plus-four. While there, Gaudreau faced Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin and Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic.
“I was really fortunate the last month and a half to get to play against a whole bunch of NHL players,” he said. “It’s just going to help me down the road.”
Gaudreau said his time in Penticton was fun, despite not getting the chance to see much of the city, being busy with hockey.
“From what I hear, it’s a really good city,” said Gaudreau.
When asked about playing in a hockey-mad city like Calgary, Gaudreau said he didn’t know “how crazy Canadian fans were about hockey since I was from New Jersey.”
“My first development camp I got a first glimpse of how crazy they are out here for hockey,” said Gaudreau, who is inspired by players like Danny Briere of the Colorado Avalanche, Martin St. Louis of the New York Rangers and other small players who have had success in the NHL. “It’s awesome to be in an organization and being in a city where they love hockey so much.”
Flames notes: General manager Brad Treliving said that Gaudreau and Bennett looked good in the Young Stars Classic. However, he was also pleased with the play of Austin Carroll, a seventh round pick, who is 6-3, 215. Treliving said he moves around well for a big body. He also liked defencemen Ryan Culkin and Brett Kulak and forwad Hunter Smith. A large number of players from their Young Stars Classic roster will advance to the main camp, however, Treliving said decisions still need to be made and they have a rookie game against the University of Calgary this week.