If you held a contest before training camp to name the player who’d be the most exciting on the Vancouver Canucks team, you would have likely chosen Elias Pettersson. And, you’d be right. But, if you would pick someone who would come in second, would you have chosen Adam Gaudette? Few would have, and he simply looked great during preseason.
This is Gaudette’s second full season with the Canucks, and so far – well – not so good. It isn’t as if Gaudette didn’t come without a pedigree. He was 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, but last season he simply couldn’t translate that great play into success at the NHL level.
Chosen in the fifth round (#149 overall) in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Canucks were probably forced to push Gaudette too hard when injuries took a toll on the team. He was promoted early in the season, and he stayed. However, he couldn’t score consistently and had only five goals and 12 points in 56 games. Plus, at times he looked over his head defensively.
2019-20 Was a Brand New Season for Gaudette
This preseason was different. Gaudette worked hard to get ready for training camp and he looked good in preseason games. In a preseason game I watched, it seemed that the announcer kept saying his name – over and over – he seemed to always be in the middle of the on-ice action.
That announcer wasn’t wrong. Gaudette led the team with four goals in six games, and he seemed to gain more confidence in each game he played. How different than last season. He outplayed almost everyone else competing for a position on the roster; and, when the team made its final cuts, he was still around. In fact, on October 3, when team photos were taken, his photo showed him to be incredibly happy to make the team (at least that’s how we interpret it here at NHLTradeTalk.com.).
Chances Are Gaudette Might Move to Utica
However, given that Gaudette is waiver exempt, will he keep his place on the roster? Most hockey commentators believe he’ll be sent down to Utica both for more seasoning and also because the Canucks have roster and salary-cap limits to work around. The 22-year-old is among the few forwards who can be sent to the AHL without waivers.
As well, Gaudette might develop better at the beginning of his pro career playing first-line minutes for the Utica Comets instead of fourth-line minutes in Vancouver. Still, Gaudette’s strong preseason helped build the hopes of Canucks fans that he might become an additional youthful piece of a strong, young core of players such as Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Thatcher Demko, and Quinn Hughes.
Gaudette’s progress wasn’t lost on head coach Travis Green, who noted, “He (Gaudette) had a great camp. He’s made it hard on us (to make a roster decision). Quite honestly, I wish other players made it harder on us as well.”
What’s Next with Gaudette?
When the Canucks announced that the team had waived forwards Sven Baertschi and Nikolay Goldobin (as well as veteran defenseman Alex Biega), it was obvious that part of the decision was made because the organization felt the team needed to play tougher. Baertschi and Goldobin are not what anyone would call physical players.
That decision didn’t bode well for Gaudette’s chances to stay on the Canucks roster. As a center, he’s in tough (no pun intended) against the more physical centers Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle. And, unless there’s a change in philosophy, there’s little chance of moving either of these physical centers from the bottom two lines.
That leaves Gaudette little wiggle room. However, perhaps having him hone his craft in Utica isn’t such a bad deal for a youngster with skill and potential. Right now, he’s on the big club’s roster. But, will he play and will he stay?
During the first game of the season (a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers), the Canucks played two checking centers and sat the more skilled Gaudette in the press box. Obviously, that decision didn’t sit well with the Canucks fans wondering where the offensive production will come from on the bottom two lines.
That thought was evident after the Oilers game, as can be seen in this post-game tweet.
Will coach Green make room for Gaudette? It’s early in the season, but we’ll see who the Canucks play during its game two. That might tell us more.