Johnny Gaudreau hopes James Neal joins him on Flames’ top line

Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) skates with the puck as Arizona Coyotes defenceman Jakob Chychrun (6) defends. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Johnny Gaudreau is hoping new teammate James Neal will join him and Sean Monahan on the Calgary Flames‘ top line next season.

“I think he’s gonna be a great addition to, hopefully, our line. I think that would be a great fit for me and Mony — a strong player who can shoot the puck,” Gaudreau said in an interview with the Cherry Hill Courier-Post. “Me and Mony have played together for four or five years now. We know each other really well on the ice and Neal would just be a great addition to our line.

“Hopefully we can do some big things together.”

The Flames will be counting on those three to deliver big things after a disappointing 2017-18 season. The Flames missed the playoffs after a disastrous stretch at the end of the season saw them only win two of their last 11 games.

The collapse cost head coach Glen Gulutzan his job and saw GM Brad Treliving make some drastic changes to the roster. Along with the addition of Neal, who signed a five-year contract as a free agent, the Flames made a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Hurricanes that saw Dougie Hamilton leave, and Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm come to Calgary.

Micheal Ferland, who spent a lot of time as the third player on the Gaudrea-Monahan line, was also sent to Carolina in the trade, opening up a spot for Neal.

Last season with the Vegas Golden Knights, Neal scored 25 goals, the 10th straight 20-goal season of his career. While Gaudreau is a small, skilled skater, Neal is a bigger player with a hard shot. Matched with Monahan, the trio has the potential to drive opponents crazy with their offensive variety.

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The man who will decide if Gaudreau gets his wish is new head coach Bill Peters, who comes to the Flames after four years with the Hurricanes.

Gaudreau was asked if he thinks Peters will be a good fit for his style of play, and he sounded excited talking about the potential the new coach brings.

“I talked to some of the guys that played for him, who said he’s a great coach and expects a lot out of his players, which I loved to hear,” Gaudreau said. “That’s what we need on our team, a coach that’s going to push that team and make us better each day and I think he’s the right man to do that.”

Anytime a team makes major changes like the Flames have, it’s hard to know how the players will react. But the consistent message from Flames players all summer has been the team needed a change, and Gaudreau agrees. He’s excited to see what his team can do, and with their young core of players, Flames fans should be too.

“I’m very excited. I think it’s a really good offseason for our team,” Gaudreau said. “(I) can’t wait to get back out there and get things going and meet the new guys and get our team back in the playoffs this season.”

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