It wasn’t long ago that Johnny Gaudreau doubted if he was good enough after being cut from the 2012 Team USA World Junior Championship team. Gaudreau has been playing with a chip on his shoulder ever since and is the runaway favorite for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award.
“That first year before I got cut was pretty tough for me,” he said. “It was good to get back and play with (BC). I was motivated to show that I should have made the (US) team. I wasn’t very happy that I got cut, and I wanted to prove them wrong.”
The Calgary Flames fourth-round pick did more than prove he should have made the team, helping Boston College win the 2012 NCAA National Championship. Playing on a line with former Eagles captain Pat Mullane, Gaudreau hit his stride. The five-foot-eight winger was on fire down the stretch and finished the season with 44 points (21 points, 23 assists) in 44 games.
In 2013, Team USA didn’t make the mistake of leaving Gaudreau off the roster and it paid dividends. He scored seven goals and two assists, helping his country earn WJC gold.
“The secret part that people don’t know about Johnny is the incredible competiveness that he has,” BC associate head coach Greg Brown said. “He takes those setbacks, uses them to motivate him more and it has furthered his determination. He is an incredibly competitive kid. Everyday in practice, every little small game we play, you can see the fire come out in him.”
After torching NCAA goaltenders for 51 points a year ago, Gaudreau has been even better this season. For the first time in his collegiate career, Gaudreau has reached the 30-goal plateau, scoring 32 goals to go along with his 37 assists. His 69 points is good for No. 1 in the nation.
“He’s fun to watch,” Brown said. “Johnny has such an imagination. Probably once a day or more he brings a smile to your face because he tries something unique. That’s hard to do after three years.”
The flashy winger's offensive ability has created a buzz with Gaudreau being one of the most fascinating players to watch at the NCAA level. His incredible play has helped him earn the nickname “Johnny Hockey".
“It’s exciting and a cool name to have,” he said. “I’m trying to take it all in and enjoy it. I never thought that I would have something like that as a nickname.”
The Carneys Point, NJ native was the hottest player in the nation this season, recording a 31-game point streak. During the streak he scored an astounding 61 points and his streak tied former University of Maine and NHL star Paul Karyia’s 31-game streak from 1991-92. Karyia and Gaudreau hold the longest point streak in Hockey East history.
“It’s hard not to get a point when you’re playing with Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes,” Gaudreau said about the streak. “Thankfully, coach (Jerry York) put us together because I wouldn’t have had that point streak without them. It was a fun stretch and hopefully we can keep it going (in the Tournament).”
Playing with the likes of Arnold and Hayes this season has helped Gaudreau, but Gaudreau will always credit his teammates. Last season, Gaudreau credited Mullane for taking him under his wing, but it was Mullane who credited Gaudreau for his on-ice success last season. Mullane had a career high 43-point season a year ago and is now playing for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL.
“That is just Johnny deflecting because he is unbelievable,” Mullane said last spring about Gaudreau. “What he does with the puck and brings to the table for this team and college hockey as a whole is incredible. I have played with him a lot this season and my goals have almost doubled because I just go to the net, put my stick down, and he finds it.”
Gaudreau will always be one of the smaller players on the ice, and he will seem even smaller at the professional level. Luckily for Gaudreau, he has never let his size define him as a player. Like most undersized players, being told that they’re too short gets old.
“I’ve had a ton of help from past coaches,” Gaudreau said “One of the main things has been trying to avoid hits, checks and watch myself from being in vulnerable positions on the ice. I get hit every once in a while, but I make sure that I’m playing smart. I get told (that) I’m too short all the time, and it motivates me.”
The Eagles are the first-seed in the 2014 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Northeast Regional that will take place in Worcester, MA as Gaudreau looks to get his team to Philadelphia for the Frozen Four.
“We had a special team in 2012 when we won it,” Gaudreau said. “I still communicate with all the guys on that team because, when you win a championship, it’s a special bond. That is something that I want this season.”
With Gaudreau at the helm, the Eagles must like their chances to win their second NCAA title in three years.