Boston College did not make the 2013 Frozen Four, but they were nonetheless well represented at the festivities, with sophomore forward Johnny Gaudreau among the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Gaudreau was the only underclassman to be selected as a finalist for the award, with the other two, winner Drew LeBlanc (CHI) and Eric Hartzell, both seniors. He was also the only member of the trio whose team did not make it to the Frozen Four.
"I'm a sophomore," Gaudreau said shortly after the Hobey Baker ceremony. "I never thought I'd get the chance to be in this kind of room, in this kind of environment, with two other great players like I was just with. I've just been taking it all in and it's been a really great experience so far."
Gaudreau was the top scoring underclassman in the nation in 2012-13, with 21 goals and 30 points through 35 games. He was also the top scorer for Team USA's gold medal-winning squad at the 2013 World Junior Championships.
"Both were pretty special times in my sophomore year. I'll remember both for the rest of my life. This is just an individual award, that gold medal is something pretty special. There's a lot of great guys that I was with throughout that whole weekend and that was a great time in my sophomore year," Gaudreau said before adding, "But I mean the Hobey Baker Award, that's something pretty special too. Hearing about it growing up and throughout college hockey, hearing about this award, I never thought I'd be in the mix with that kind of name."
Aside from being nominated for the top individual trophy in college hockey, Gaudreau had other reasons to be happy. Boston College head coach Jerry York, who had been dealing on and off with a detached retina since January, took several trains and traveled about 14 hours just to congratulate Gaudreau in person.
"It was awesome to see Coach out here, with his eye, how bad it is, it was cool to see how many trains he took and how long it would take him just to come out here," said Gaudreau.
"Things like this, they don't surprise me. He does these kinds of little things all the time and it doesn't surprise me at all. He's just such a great guy, on and off the ice. I was surprised when I heard the news, but, at the same time, I kind of figured he would do it. I'm just really honored to get a chance to play for him, and my two years with him have been pretty special."
Selected by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft, Gaudreau's amateur player status has been the subject of recent speculation. A youth movement has begun in Calgary, with the Flames trading away many of their veteran players, and Gaudreau is viewed as a potential franchise forward. The 19-year-old does not seem drawn to the allure of playing in the NHL though, at least not yet.
"Playing at BC, it's something special but [going pro] is always in the back of your head, just thinking about one day playing in the NHL and playing against your favorite team and stuff like that. It's in all of our heads and we always think about it. Hopefully we'll get the chance to make our dream come true and play in the NHL."
In the meantime, Gaudreau's goal is to lead his team to the 2014 Frozen Four, which will be held in Philadelphia, PA, about 30 miles from Gaudreau's hometown of Carney's Point, NJ.
"Hopefully our team gets to there. It's in Philly near my house, I think about 20 minutes away from my hometown, so it'd be fun to get a chance to go play a Frozen Four over there in Philly."
Though he will be returning to the Boston College Eagles for the 2013-14 season, Gaudreau will be playing a much different role this upcoming year than he has in the previous seasons.
"We've got an extremely great freshman class coming in. I know our team's going to be pretty young next year, with a lot of lower classmen, but I mean like my two years here, they've been pretty special so far and I just want to make sure we make them special for those young guys. Hopefully we'll get a chance to come to Philadelphia and show those young guys how special it is [to play at the Frozen Four], to be with your team and getting a chance to win a National Championship."
One of the more prominent names in Boston College's incoming freshman class is Johnny's younger brother, Matt Gaudreau, a 2013 draft-eligible forward who has spent the last two years playing with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL.
"Me and my brother are extremely close and we've been close, we're only 15, 16 months apart. And growing up you couldn't get us away from each other. We've always been so competitive, so I think that was probably one of the biggest factors for me just staying here, was being around my brother.
"It'll be fun and I'm excited to get on the ice with him," Gaudreau added. "It's been awhile since I've been around him and been on the ice with him. I think that might keep me motivated more the whole season long, just being around him."
The elder Gaudreau also has a few parts of his game he would like to address before potentially signing an entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames.
"I've been saying this a lot. Stressing with my defensive game and the defensive zone, I need to get a lot better at that. And that might be one of the reasons why my team didn't make it [to the Frozen Four]. I got to get better at those little things and hopefully I can get better and help my team get back to the Frozen Four like we did last year."
Just as important as improving his defensive game, Gaudreau realizes, as a smaller player, he needs to add considerable strength to his 5'7" frame.
"A lot of the people at BC that help me out throughout the year they're trying to help me gain weight. A lot of the guys on the team are trying to just maintain weight or maybe lose a couple pounds," he said. "I think trying to get stronger, get faster, throughout the whole next season is going to help me get better for my game to improve."
And one of the keys to Gaudreau gaining weight?
"I'm trying to get used to vegetables," he said with a big smile. "I'm not too keen on those right now, but I'm working on them. I got my strength coach at BC he keeps pushing me to try and eat more of those greens but it comes pretty tough for me to eat those. Hopefully it works out."
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