The Canucks’ scouting department played one hell of a hunch when they drafted Adam Gaudette in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Even for a fifth-round pick, Gaudette’s 30 points in 50 USHL games didn’t exactly jump off the page. What did stand out to Judd Brackett was Gaudette’s engagement level. He believed that a player who looked as involved as Gaudette on a shift-by-shift basis was poised to break out at any time; and as one of his final moves before being promoted to Head of Amateur Scouting, he played a hand in making sure the Canucks selected him when he was available with the 149th pick.
Flash-forward to the present day, and the Canucks’ bet has paid off in spades. Each of Gaudette’s seasons with Northeastern has been more impressive than the last, as he capped off his college career by winning the Hobey Baker Award for the NCAA’s most valuable player. All of Gaudette’s hard work eventually culminated in a pro contract and a five-game stint with the big club at the end of the 2017-18 season. While he failed to register a point, he didn’t appear out of place, and he looks to be a shoo-in to make the roster out of camp next season. He may not be the most dynamic player in the Canucks’ system, but he looks like a surefire NHLer at this point, which is enough to net him the 4th spot on our midterm rankings.
After a lights-out sophomore season with Northeastern University that saw Gaudette finish with a 50/50 shot of becoming an NHL regular, Gaudette’s expected success percentage via the prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS) took a bit of a hit, falling to 21.4%.
The biggest reason for the drop is simply that Gaudette elected to spend another year in the NCAA rather than making the jump last season. Judging by his increase in production and the fact that he managed to play a handful of pro games last season, pGPS likely undersells Gaudette’s chances of becoming a full-time NHLer.
When looking at matches, Gaudette’s cohort is all over the map, with everything from role players to legit top-line forwards popping up as statistically similar. Canucks fans will make note of the fact that Brendan Morrison is one of Gaudette’s closest matches.
While Gaudette’s college resumé is impressive, it’s worth noting that his teammates didn’t really seem to benefit from playing with him consistently when looking at on-ice goal-differential. Scouts may also be underestimating the effect that Dylan Sikura, a great prospect in his own right, may have had on Gaudette’s performance.
I’d caution against reading too much into these numbers, however. Goals can be a very random occurrence over a 38-game sample, and luck could be as much to blame as anything Gaudette was doing at the NCAA level.
There isn’t much not to like about Gaudette’s game. He’s positionally sound and reliable in his own zone. He’s got a good stick, and his speed makes him effective at puck retrieval and in transition. He’s comfortable and effective in all three zones, which made him a fixture in all situations for Northeastern. Offensively, he lacks high-end skill, but has an enviable toolkit. All the physical tools are there: speed, stickhandling, passing, and the release on his shot is particularly deadly.
He’s a smart player, but not particularly creative with the puck, so he often seems more comfortable generating offence off the rush than through zone time. This was even more apparent in his brief audition at the NHL level, where Gaudette had a couple of nice scoring chances but wasn’t particularly effective at using his linemates. Gaudette is very much a straight-line player, who relies more on his speed and skill with the puck than his vision or hockey sense. That’s not a knock on him – he’s been tremendously effective offensively at the college level- it just means it’s unlikely he becomes a high-end offensive contributor at the NHL level. That being said, it bodes extremely well for his chances of being an effective NHLer that I even feel the need to add that disclaimer. Just because it’s unlikely doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. At this point, no development should surprise Canucks fans. Gaudette’s shattered expectations at every level. He’d only have to do it one more time.