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Most intriguing Canucks at camp, #4: Adam Gaudette

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Edmonton Oilers v Vancouver Canucks
Adam Gaudette #88 of the Vancouver Canucks skates prior to the start of NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers on March, 29, 2018 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

When Jim Benning signed Jay Beagle, Tim Schaller and Antoine Roussel on July 1st, it immediately affected the chances of multiple rookie forwards starting with the big club on October 3rd. Just because those chances have diminished though, doesn’t mean they’ve evaporated.

A strong camp from this player will certainly change the dynamics of the Canucks lineup heading into the regular season. Fresh off of winning the Hobey Baker, the sky is the limit for 21-year-old Adam Gaudette.

Where He Left Off

Gaudette capped off his improbable rise through the NCAA ranks with a Beanpot championship and the Hobey Baker award. Soon after Northeastern was eliminated from the Frozen Four, Gaudette signed his entry-level contract with the Canucks. It’s becoming commonplace nowadays in the NHL to burn that first year of the ELC late in the season, and the Canucks did that for five games of Gaudette.

Those five games were a glimpse to what kind of player Gaudette might be at the NHL level. Making the jump from college to the NHL is no small feat, but Gaudette adjusted well with the big club.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks forward Adam Gaudette (88) congratulaes Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) for his first game after overtime against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Green did shelter him a bit early on, giving him more starts in the offensive zone. Even though he didn’t score, Gaudette didn’t disappoint. He generated more scoring chances per-60 than any other Canucks, and got more comfortable with each passing game.

Where He Sits Now

Even though those pesky offseason signings signal that Gaudette might start the season in Utica, he’s sure doing his best to stand out before training camp even begins.

Over the weekend in Penticton, Gaudette lit the lamp twice, once on Friday and once on Sunday. On the most stacked Young Stars roster in recent years, you could make the argument that Gaudette was the best player out there. He didn’t show as much flash as Elias Pettersson, but he was rock solid at both ends of the ice. It’s becoming a calling card of Gaudette’s game, and that will certainly earn him some brownie points with Travis Green.

That five game audition gave Gaudette a sniff of what being an NHL player is all about, but he knows that his work is still cut out for him.

“I have everything to prove,” Gaudette said to TSN 1040. Those were only five games, it wasn’t a full season. Playing in those five games was huge, and having the summer I had, I feel really comfortable.”

“The league is a lot faster, guys are a lot stronger. I think I felt comfortable as the games went on, and I feel a lot more comfortable now after getting faster and stronger in the summer.

“The only thing i can do is go out there and play my game. if I do that, focus on the little things that I’m good at, the points and stuff are going to come.“

Season Outlook

With the Canucks bringing 59 players to training camp in Whistler, including 33 forwards, competition for roster spots is going to be intense. For Gaudette, the odds of making this team are already working against him since he isn’t waiver eligible, and can be sent down to the minors.

However, that train of thought just motivates Gaudette more, according to his head coach Jim Madigan. The Northeastern head coach was on Sportsnet 650 earlier this week talking about his former first-line centre.

“He’s so driven to make this team because he’s heard that, you know what, they’ve signed a few older players and maybe he’s sticking in Utica to start the season. When you tell him he can’t do something, he goes out and does it. That’s great leadership.”

Madigan mentions that he saw Gaudette less than two weeks ago, before the Braintree, Massachusetts native flew to Vancouver.

“He’s gotten much stronger. Sometimes, it takes time for your body to mature physically, and that’s what’s happened in Adam’s situation. He’s always going to have that lean build, but he’s hockey strong. He just looks awesome.”

On the depth chart, Gaudette is behind the likes of Bo Horvat, Brandon Sutter, and Jay Beagle. You can throw Elias Pettersson into that group as well, since reports suggest the Canucks will try him out at centre to begin training camp.

That set up doesn’t leave much room for Gaudette, but Jim Benning has always said that he will make room for younger players if they deserve it. If the Young Stars tournament is any indication, Gaudette is primed for a prominent training camp. His push to make this team will be one of the most interesting storylines to watch as camp progresses.