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Is the snake-bitten Gaudette ready for a second-half breakout?

Gaudette has arguably had worse puck luck than any other Canuck this season.

Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks
Adam Gaudette #96 of the Vancouver Canucks celebrates after scoring the game tying goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period of NHL hockey action at Rogers Arena on March 8, 2021 in Vancouver, Canada.
Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

Adam Gaudette hadn’t scored a goal in 16 games.

Despite a plethora of chances, some fans were inevitably asking themselves this question.

Well, with 40 seconds to play, Gaudette’s slapper beat Carey Price, changing the Canucks fate from a pointless night to a shootout win.

On the season, Gaudette can’t be happy with his stat line. He was supposed to be one of the main providers of secondary scoring for the Canucks. However, his actual production evaporated over the first 20 games, where he had just two goals and no assists.

Suddenly though, Gaudette had four points in his last five games. Prior to his goal last night, he was rewarded a spot on the top line alongside J.T. Miller and Nils Hoglander as Travis Green looked to shake things up.

To cap off an otherwise strong showing, he was rewarded with the game-tying goal.

“Oh man, it was a relief,” Gaudette told Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy after the game. “Great to see one finally go in and hopefully they just keep piling on from here.”

The Canucks better hope that’s the case as well. One of the reasons why Vancouver has been unable to rake in more wins this season is because they’ve been hampered by a bottom-six that fails to score.

Of the bottom-six disappointments, the putrid production from Jake Virtanen and Adam Gaudette top that list. Both players were averaging even-strength points-per-60 rates last season that were well in-line with second line players. This year, production from both players has plummeted.

While Virtanen has played better hockey of late as well, there’s good reason to think that it’s Gaudette — instead of Virtanen — that’s due for a breakout.

Gaudette among good company

At even-strength, Gaudette has been one of the most consistent producers of scoring chances in the NHL.

He not only leads the Canucks in individual scoring chances per 60, but he’s second in the entire NHL.

Courtesy: Natural Stat Trick

You can see from the list above that the majority of players are successful top-six forwards in the NHL. The only ones that don’t really fit that mold are Gaudette, David Backes, Wayne Simmonds and Jeff Skinner.

You can also see that 10 of the 15 players have averaged at least one goal per-60 minutes (with Brady Tkachuk narrowly missing that mark). Gaudette is nowhere near that mark with 0.51 goals per 60.

It’s one of the main reasons why Gaudette could be bound for a breakout in the second half of the season.

Montreal Canadiens v Vancouver Canucks
Adam Gaudette #96 of the Vancouver Canucks is congratulated by teammate Bo Horvat #53 after scoring during their NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Arena on March 8, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Expectation vs. Reality

One of the most frustrating aspects about Gaudette’s season was that many expected him to cement himself as the Canucks third-line centre of the future.

It’s hard to get past the disappointment of having Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle as your bottom-two pivots, and part of the reason why the Canucks are in this position is because of Gaudette’s non-linear development.

However, once you get past the fading expectation of Gaudette becoming a third-line centre, you can start to focus on what skills he actually brings to this hockey club.

This club lacks depth at all positions — including the wing. If Gaudette turns out to be an offensively-minded bottom-six winger for the Canucks, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Even though his one-year, “prove-it” year hasn’t gone as expected, there’s reason to believe that Gaudette can provide something the Canucks desperately lack — consistent secondary scoring from their forwards.