Gaudette looking to follow Boeser’s path to crack Canucks roster

Vancouver Canucks centre Adam Gaudette (88) skates during the first period of an NHL hockey game (Darryl Dyck/CP)

PENTICTON, B.C. – Adam Gaudette is listed at 170 pounds and no one cares. Almost no one.

“I’m actually close to 190 now,” the centre said Saturday. “I put on a few pounds this summer. I think I was 170 when I was drafted. My parents get kind of angry about it, like, ‘What, they say you’re 170?’ But it doesn’t bother me.

“Maybe opponents go in a little lighter in the corners.”

Weight was a heavy issue at the Canucks’ Young Stars tournament until about the time wiry prospect Ellias Pettersson stepped on the ice here Friday night and dazzled with his skill as Vancouver’s prospects overwhelmed the Winnipeg Jets’ rookies 8-2.

Pettersson, 19, was the best player in Sweden last season, winning scoring and MVP titles. Gaudette, 21, was the best player in U.S. college hockey, winning scoring and Hobey Baker awards.

Gaudette was nearly as thin as Pettersson when the Canucks plucked him from Cedar Rapids of the United States Hockey League in the fifth round of the 2015 National Hockey League draft. That seems a lot longer than three years ago.

The six-foot-one forward from Braintree, Mass., is nearly 20 pounds heavier, which is worth remembering, and evolved dramatically as a player during three high-scoring seasons at Northeastern University.

After Pettersson, Gaudette is the next most likely prospect to make the Canucks’ opening-night lineup on Oct. 3, which is also his 22nd birthday. They are at the crest of the wave of Vancouver prospects surging towards the NHL, following in behind last season’s Calder Trophy runnerup, Brock Boeser.

But while Pettersson, the gifted fifth-overall pick from the 2017 draft, is a pure offensive player who needs to secure a top-six role, Gaudette is a lineup wildcard.

His game is versatile enough that he could be the fourth-line winger or the second-line centre – playing alongside Pettersson. Or he could even skate on the first line with Boeser and Bo Horvat if coach Travis Green moves winger Sven Baertschi beside Pettersson to give the teenager experienced wingers.

“When you’re a skilled guy and you’re expected to score, that’s a hard job,” Green said after watching the prospects practise on Saturday for Sunday’s rematch against the Jets’ kids. “And when you’re a guy who’s expected to win faceoffs, block shots and kill penalties, that’s still a hard job. But depending on the makeup of the player, sometimes those jobs can be quicker to attain.

“I remember as a player, when I was a guy thinking I should score 25 goals, it was hard. And I didn’t like that player. Then when I finally felt comfortable in my own skin and could be a player who scored 10 or 15 goals but do a lot of little things that go into winning, I was a way better player. I think Adam has the qualities and the makeup where he could be that guy.

“We don’t know his upside yet, but he talks about a 200-foot game and he could be a little bit of everything.”


There is a massive opportunity for Gaudette to make the NHL straight from college hockey after getting a five-game cameo with the Canucks at the end of last season. Boeser used a similar head start at the end of the 2016-17 season to launch himself into the Canucks lineup last fall.

As with Gaudette, Boeser’s season began at this tournament.

“It laid out the plan for what I needed to work on in the summer, and that’s exactly what I worked on,” Gaudette said of his NHL preview. “I feel comfortable with my skating and I put on some muscle. I feel strong out there, faster. I just feel good.”

Gaudette opened scoring and added an assist during Friday’s romp. Until Pettersson and linemates Jonathan Dahlen and Kole Lind began dominating in the second period, the Canucks’ best line was Gaudette between minor-leaguer Zack MacEwen and Petrus Palmu, a sixth-round pick who was named rookie-of-the-year last season in Finland’s top league.

Obviously, I’ve been a late bloomer and have always been trying to catch up to guys,” Gaudette said. “So there was nothing really new this summer; I just got after it a little more. (My skating) is not as choppy as it used to be. It’s a little easier to get up and down the ice.

“I’ve always been kind of a choppy skater, an aggressive skater. Ever since I was little, I’ve been working on my stride, trying to lengthen it a little bit and smooth it out, so I get more power out of it.”

Gaudette does appear to moving better, although it’s difficult to compare his appearance among prospects this weekend with what he encountered five months ago in the NHL against the best players in the world.

But you can’t dismiss the drive of a player who had 60 points in 38 games last season at Northeastern but says he takes as much pride in winning a defensive-zone faceoff as scoring a goal.

“I’m pretty hungry,” he said. “It’s everybody’s dream to be in the NHL. Everyone wants to play there, and I think I have a pretty good shot. I just have to force the coaches to put me in there. I’ll do whatever I have to do to help the team. I’m hoping to be a guy who can play in any situation.

“I’ve never really had complacency. I’ve never been satisfied wherever I was at. That’s just part of my mentality. I think that’s what’s gotten me where I am, just never being satisfied and always wanting more and pushing through that ceiling.”

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