As the NHL moves to a faster game, players need to pick up their own pace or risk being left in the dust.
22-year-old Jonah Gadjovich knows this and worked to address his biggest weakness during the offseason.
“I’m coming out of the summer as a better all-around player,” said Gadjovich when asked about how his summer workouts went.
“I put in a lot of hard work this offseason. I got stronger and I got faster. I worked on my skating, my shooting, my puck handling and I shed 10 pounds this summer.”
On day one of training camp, it was noticeable that Gadjovich looked lighter on his feet. After finding the pace and excelling at the AHL last season, Gadjovich took a literal punch in the mouth in his one and only NHL game. He took a look at his game and worked all offseason to address the weakest point in his game and to what many talent evaluators believe is the only thing holding him back from being an NHL player.
His biggest weakness since being drafted in the second round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft has always been his skating. Gadjovich has made a decent AHL career so far from being a punishing force but knew that he needed to make a change to take his game to the next level and become an NHL regular.
“I don’t need to be 215 pounds anymore, so I tried cutting 10 pounds, accomplished it, and I’m down to 205 now. I worked a lot on my skating, but I’m still pushing heavy weights in the gym. Honestly, I’m just as strong as I was at 215. I feel like I got faster and I’m feeling more explosive right out of the start. That was my goal heading into the summer and I think I’ve accomplished that.”
It’s clear that Gadjovich has a knack for putting the puck in the back of the net. He dominated the opposition’s creases last year and totalled up 15 goals in 19 AHL games. Early on in day one of camp, it looked like his shot was popping off the stick as he found the back of the net in multiple drills.
With Tyler Motte questionable to return for the beginning of the regular season, a player like Gadjovich is being given a big opportunity to earn a spot on the Vancouver Canucks’ roster. Gadjovich is very aware of his current spot on the Canucks’ depth chart and sees the next few weeks as a massive opportunity to finally find consistent minutes in the NHL.
“It opens the door for someone and that’s what I’m here to do, I’m here to earn that spot,” said Gadjovich. “I know there’s a lot of guys fighting for an NHL spot but I came to this camp to make the Vancouver Canucks. That’s my goal this year. I don’t want to go down to the AHL. I want to stay up here. I want to play for the Vancouver Canucks, and I want to help the team win.”
There are definitely NHL quality skills to Gadjovich’s game. He is not only one of the strongest players as a net-front presence, last year he also showed his reaction time has improved as he was a dog on a bone for every loose puck around the crease. To go with his net-front adroitness, Gadjovich was physical on the forecheck and has a strong stick in board battles through his 2020-21 AHL season.
The only detriment keeping him out of the NHL has been his skating. The newer, lighter Gadjovich has taken steps to address this and is now in a tight battle to crack the fourth line of the Vancouver Canucks. At 22 years old, he still has time to develop his game but also wants this to be the year where he makes his mark on the organization.
We will continue to follow his progress through training camp and preseason action as there is a lot to like about the assets that Gadjovich can bring to a hockey team. He’s tough, hard-working, sticks up for his teammates and clearly has a scoring touch. If the skating can get to an NHL level, you’re looking at a solid contributor that NHL teams want on their fourth line — especially from a 22-year-old.