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Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Gaudette has Made the Third Line Fun Again

One of the biggest questions surrounding the Canucks heading into the season was if they were going to be able to have three scoring lines. This season, we have seen an emergence of a third line that can chip in offensively in a way that Canucks fans have not seen over the past few years. Gone are the days of Brandon Sutter and Jay Beagle centering the bottom six lines, thanks to the emergence of Adam Gaudette.

Adam Gaudette made a case for himself early on in October with his strong play and has continued to back it up throughout the regular season. He is now at least an everyday NHL player, to the point where he recently suited up for his 100th NHL game, and has become a mainstay on the team’s second power play unit. His offensive ability has improved since last season and with that he has seen more ice time from his head coach.

Last season, Gaudette had five goals and seven assists in 56 games. Seeing that Gaudette played in 56 games was a bit surprising given how little he was talked about. He averaged under 11 minutes a game and got little time on the power play. This season he has been impactful at 5-on-5 and powerplay situations. Gaudette is now 23 years old and still has room to grow. His early success this season has been one of the keys to rounding out this Canucks lineup.

Even Strength Strength

Adam Gaudette has seen a handful of different linemates this season. Early on, he saw time with players like Tanner Pearson and Josh Leivo, while now he finds himself with Antoine Roussel and one of either Jake Virtanen or Brock Boeser. His most consistent linemates have been Roussel and Virtanen. That trio has played 118 minutes of 5-on-5 together this season. During that ice time they have been able to control a positive goal share, something that the bottom six lines were unable to do last season

That has been the key to the Canucks’ third line. Last season, the lines centered by Jay Beagle or Brandon Sutter had a horrible control of the goal share. Those lines scored 25 goals at 5-on-5 while being scored on 49 times, controlling just 33.78% control of the goal share. Adam Gaudette’s most consistent line of himself with Virtanen and Roussel have controlled 54.55% of the goals scored at 5-on-5.

Gaudette also controls the goal share when he is away from his most recent linemates. When Gaudette is away from Boeser, Virtanen and Roussel he has been on the ice for three goals scored and two given up. He definitely has parts of his defensive game to work on, but most fans can agree that the team’s third line needed an offensive makeover this season. I don’t think I could have handled another season of Brandon Sutter as the 3C.

A line centred by Adam Gaudette plays more like a second scoring line. We all see the work that the Bo Horvat line does. Currently flanked by Loui Eriksson and Tanner Pearson, the trio is set to matchup against the oppositions best scoring line most nights. This line is expected to limit chances while push for their own when their opportunities are presented.

That opens up the chance for Adam Gaudette & Co. to be a bit more offensive minded. The Canucks are winning more games this season because of good goaltending and the fact that their lines can match up well against opposing teams.

Last season the goal was for the top six to score goals and the bottom six to not be scored on. It was boring to watch and didn’t work.

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The current lines might be some of the best we have seen over the past few years. They have Horvat’s line who play a great two way game, the JT Miller/Elias Pettersson line which puts up some of the best offensive totals in the league, a low-event fourth line that can mostly keep it’s head above water in terms of goal share, and Gaudette’s line is put in a position to take some chances against other team’s bottom six lines.

This newest line of Roussel-Gaudette-Boeser has some very interesting qualities to it.

Brock Boeser will once again be relied upon to be the best player on a line, which is something he hasn’t had to do since Elias Pettersson joined the team in 2018-19. Boeser will also be getting much easier matchups now that he is  technically out of a top six role. Many nights this line is matching up against the opposition’s third line and if Brock Boeser is able to find some chemistry with the playmaker Roussel and Gaudette the goal-scorer, we could see a serious mismatch from this line and they competition they draw.

Jake Virtanen is currently skating with Pettersson and Miller. That line can be very successful if Virtanen is able to skate his tail off and bring some physicality. Miller and Pettersson are arguably the best two playmakers on this Canucks team. Virtanen just needs to continue going to the net. He doesn’t have as many defensive responsibilities with two centres on his line. Brock Boeser got so many breakaways on that line and Jake has the speed to get even more than Boeser.

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Powerplay Specialist

The Canucks are currently second in the league when it comes to power play goals scored with 42 goals scored (43 if you count one with the empty net on the powerplay). They only trail the Edmonton Oilers who have 44 power play goals. The first unit is has produced the majority of the team’s goals on the man advantage, accounting for 28 of the team’s 42 powerplay goals. The second unit has also made a significant contribution, thanks largely to Adam Gaudette. All of those second unit goals have come since Adam Gaudette was added to the group.

It took awhile for Gaudette to earn his coach’s trust, and he even spent an early chunk of the season in Utica, so fans didn’t get a chance to see him play much on the second unit until fairly recently. Since he joined the unit, he has been electric. He currently sits on the left side and fires his excellent one-timer and wrist shot from that spot. Since adding Gaudette to the power play we have seen the second unit have an on-ice shooting percentage over 25%.

Obviously, shooting at over 25% is not sustainable, but the second has definitely provided a nice change of pace from the first unit, as they seem to fire shots at the net at a higher rate. Over the past 20 games, the second unit is shooting almost five more shots per 60 minutes. It may not seem like a lot, but when they are shooting more and keeping such a high shooting percentage it results in some great success for a second unit.

Adam Gaudette has been scoring at an incredibly high rate and it shows when you compare it to some of the top players in the league.

The Tampa Bay Lightning second unit scores at a 10.23 GF/60 rate, which is relatively high for a second unit. It is hilarious to look at the Oilers power play without Conner McDavid. When McDavid is not on the ice their power play is scoring a pitiful 1.92 GF/60.

Something that has made Gaudette a threat on the power play is that he can predict when a high danger chance is coming. Sometimes we see the first unit work the puck around so much that they pass themselves out of a scoring chance. The second unit is taking everything they can get. Here’s an example of Gaudette recognizing that the puck will be around the crease and he drives to the net to put away an easy goal.

Gaudette has the shot from the left side that can beat an NHL goaltender as well. He perfected this during his NCAA career at Northeastern.

Another thing I like about Gaudette’s powerplay production is that he is not predictable on where he score his goals from. Here is powerplay his goal chart from this season.

The addition of Jake Virtanen to the second unit has made the unit focus even more on getting pucks towards the net. As you can see, since the addition of Virtanen the second unit has fired way more shots on net, gotten a ton more scoring chances and has more than doubled their High Danger Corsi For.

The second unit has been talked about a bit over the past few months but they are starting to find what works for them and it includes Gaudette being the straw that stirs the drink. They may not have the elite players like Pettersson and Hughes on the second unit, but they work well with each other and are finding ways to score goals even with their limited time due to the first unit taking up 90 seconds of a two-minute power play.

Gaudette Still Needs Work

Adam Gaudette does bring a positive impact to this Canucks lineup but he is far from groomed into the perfect third line centre. He is only 100 games into his NHL career and will have to learn how to be better in the faceoff dot. This season he is only winning 40.6% of draws. Last season he saw himself around the same number winning only 40.4% of faceoffs.

Lucky for him he is on a team with players like JT Miller (59.3%) and Jay Beagle (59.2%) who are near the top of the league in the red dot. They also have Manny Malhotra on the team’s coaching staff and he is working with the centres. Malhotra had a career 59.7% faceoff win percentage over his NHL career.

Gaudette has some small things to work on in the defensive zone. At times he doesn’t recognize when to cover for a pinching defenceman. He needs to be stronger around the net in his own zone and be more effective in board battles. Again, he is still only 23 years old, and he has plenty of time to learn these parts of the game. His expected goals against is currently 18.03, while on the ice at 5-on-5 his goaltenders have had a .930 save percentage.

That is not likely to be sustainable but then again his expected goals for is higher than the actual goals that have gone in for him at 5-on-5. When he is on the ice his team’s shooting percentage is only 7.65%.

What we have seen from Adam Gaudette so far this season is likely what we will be seeing from him for the rest of the year. The Canucks finally have a third line centre that has the ability to control goal share.

Aside from the fancy stats, Adam Gaudette is an entertaining player to watch, he has some of the best goal celebrations in the league. His skating has notably improved since last season and with a playmaker like Antoine Roussel on his left and Brock Boeser on his right I’d expect to see that line be even more offensive minded.

I don’t know how much longer we will see “Top Line Jake” but it does open up the possibility to see the third line succeed at a very high rate. Adam Gaudette is in a very good spot with certified top six player Brock Boeser and quality middle six Antoine Roussel flanking his wings.

I’m excited to see the rest of the season for Adam Gaudette and if his game continues to grow we could see the centre group become a strength of this team moving forward.

Have you been impressed with Gaudette’s growth this season or did you expect this?