Adam Gaudette: Canucks can ‘do some damage’ if NHL returns

Dan Murphy, Iain MacIntyre and Satiar Shah break down what went wrong between the Canucks brass and Judd Brackett, and what it will mean if he leaves the organization. Plus, who can Jim Benning keep out of his three big UFA’s?

VANCOUVER – Don’t take our word that Adam Gaudette is becoming a big deal, just ask Wikipedia.

In the entry for Braintree, Mass., the Boston suburb Gaudette moved to when he was 12, the Vancouver Canucks centre is listed among the town’s "notable people."

Braintree is nearly 400 years old, but there are only 25 people on the list.

It includes a couple of early United States presidents named John Adams, a couple of brothers named Mark and Donnie Wahlberg, a few baseball players, Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan, and U.S. Declaration of Independence signatory John Hancock.

There in the middle of all of them is Gaudette, the 23-year-old who forced his way into the Canucks lineup this season and didn’t leave until the National Hockey League shut down in March.

"My brothers must have went in and put that on Wikipedia," Gaudette said.

He can ask them. Gaudette and younger brothers Brady, 21, and Cam, 19, skated together Thursday in Franklin Lakes, N.J., where Adam has been training for a few weeks in hopes of an NHL comeback from the coronavirus.

He is staying at his fiancee’s house in nearby Goshen, N.Y., a little over an hour north of New York City.

Sadly, Gaudette and Micaela Robinson have had to postpone the wedding reception they had planned for 200 guests in July, although the couple still intends to get married this summer even if the big party is delayed a year. On the bright side, there is the ice.

Most of Gaudette’s teammates must be jealous.

"I don’t know if anyone knows yet, honestly, because I kept it kind of hush-hush in case we were getting in trouble," he said in a telephone interview. "It seems like most guys don’t really have a place to skate and they’re kind of just stuck at home. I was lucky to find a place to skate that was appropriate with this quarantine going on. And it’s got a gym there, too, so it’s a pretty good setup."

Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people around the hockey world, and then they tell listeners all about what they’ve heard and what they think about it.

Gaudette is acutely aware of the seriousness of COVID-19. His father is a firefighter "on the front line" in Taunton, Mass., and the elderly mother of a distant cousin was a victim of the pandemic, which struck New York City and Boston especially hard.

Gaudette said his training sessions under a private skills coach are in smaller groups. Brady Gaudette just finished his freshman year at the University of Maine, and Cam is getting
ready for the United States Hockey League next season. A few other college players and minor-league pros have made appearances, Adam said.

"I think my conditioning has always been pretty good," he said. "It’s more about tightening up the little things like getting the hands and skating going. It took a couple of weeks after being off for over a month to get back to feeling how I wanted to feel."

That means Gaudette is at least a couple of weeks ahead of most NHL players, whose team representatives voted Thursday and Friday on the format for a 24-team Stanley Cup tournament that the league hopes to stage this summer.

Gaudette’s remarkable rise from his fifth-round draft position in 2015 continued this season when the former Hobey Baker Award winner from Northeastern University made the Canucks out of training camp when roster numbers and contracts were working against him.

Despite playing 56 NHL games as a rookie due to injuries on the Canucks in 2018-19, Gaudette was listed in the team media guide’s "In the System" section for this season. It wasn’t meant as an insult, simply a reflection that hockey-ops staff projected Gaudette to start in the American Hockey League.

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He was a healthy scratch in nine of the Canucks’ first 12 games, but did not leave coach Travis Green’s lineup after Nov. 10. Gaudette bounced veteran Brandon Sutter to the wing and despite averaging 12:23 of ice time — 11th among Vancouver forwards who played at least 20 games — had 12 goals and 33 points in 59 games.

Gaudette was sheltered by Green in matchups, but his 2.71 points-per-60-minutes in all situations was fourth among the forwards, behind only first-liners Tyler Toffoli (3.29), Elias Pettersson (3.14) and J.T. Miller (3.11).

"I don’t think it surprised me," Gaudette said. "If anything, I wanted more. And I think I can do more. That’s just kind of always (has) been my mindset.

"Once the first couple of points came in, I kind of realized: ‘Hey, I can do this, I can be an important piece on this team and help them win.’ I just kind of rolled with it."

It’s unlikely that Gaudette will dislodge the two centres ahead of him, Pettersson and Bo Horvat, but he is part of an important second tier of young, improving players the Canucks have.

"The only thing I can do is kind of force the coaches to play me the way I forced myself on to the team this year," he said. "We’ve got an exciting team with young guys who in a couple of years are going to be solid veterans in this league. All these young guys just keep getting better and better. I think it’s going to be very exciting in Vancouver.

"We know we’re a good team now, but we want to keep getting better. We want to be in the playoffs, we want to be a contender for the Cup. With the team we have this year… we’re right there. We can maybe do some damage if the season comes back."

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