Person of Interest: The 411 on new Canucks forward Adam Gaudette

Northeastern forward Adam Gaudette (8) hoists the Beanpot trophy after defeating Boston University. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Help is on the way for goal-starved Vancouver Canucks fans, and his name is Adam Gaudette.

In the span of about three days, Gaudette went from being a college kid fighting for a spot in the Elite Eight of NCAA Hockey’s playoff bracket with his Northeastern teammates to being a freshly-minted NHLer upon signing his entry-level contract.

And before the week is through, he’ll be setting foot on NHL ice for the first time in his pro hockey career.

Farewell, Huskies. Hello, Canucks. Here’s what hockey fans need to know about the latest addition to Vancouver’s youth movement.

Age: 21
From: Braintree, MA
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 183 lbs
Position: C
Shoots: Right
2017-18 team: Northeastern University (NCAA)
Drafted: Fifth round (No. 149 overall) in 2015 by Canucks

He’s got a stat line Canucks fans are drooling over
Early NHL comparisons have him penciled in as a Ryan Kesler-like forward thanks to his size (once he fills out a bit more), defensive responsibility and physical style of play.

But if there’s one thing you should know about Gaudette, it’s this: He can score. That offensive ability was on full display this past season with the Huskies. He led all NCAA players in goals (30), points (60), and points per game (1.58), and he did it in style with a quick-release wrister while never shying away from going hard to the net.

The speedy forward has shown significant progress throughout his three years playing college hockey, starting with a 12-goal, 30-point rookie season and progressing to a 26-26-52 sophomore year—after which many believed he could’ve turned pro.

“He’s been somebody I’ve kind of had in my back pocket for a couple years and now I can’t keep him secret anymore,” Canucks director of player development, Ryan Johnson, told the Vancouver Courier‘s Daniel Wagner last summer. “It’s amazing to see his strength and his stride coming together the way we thought it would.

“Could he have come out this year and competed and done well? Yes,” Johnson told Wagner. “But his intention is to put on some more weight and get stronger and he doesn’t want to come out and just survive or compete, he wants to come out and hit the ground running.”

Clearly, he used that extra year wisely.

He also proved lethal with the man advantage, leading the college ranks in power-play points (27) thanks to his one-timer. He could get an early look on the Canucks’ unit down the stretch, which could use a boost since losing all-star rookie Brock Boeser to injury. The Canucks are hoping to figure out what they’ve got in their young guys heading into another early off-season.

He’s a Hobey Baker Award finalist
Gaudette’s incredible junior campaign earned him a nod as one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists, which is given to the top NCAA hockey player each year while also taking into account strength of character, sportsmanship, and scholastic achievement. Gaudette is a favourite to be named to the “Hobey Hat Trick” on Thursday when the field of finalists is narrowed down to three on Thursday. The winner will be announced April 6.

In addition to his Hobey Baker nomination, Gaudette was also named Hockey East’s Player of the Year and MVP of the annual Beanpot tournament after helping the Huskies win the Boston-area bragging rights for the first time in 30 years.

His teammates love him
You can read the scouting reports all you want, but the best way to learn about Gaudette is through his teammates:

“Adam is just relentless. He’s just always on the puck, always skating. He always wants the puck on his stick … Whenever he gets the puck anywhere near the net, you know that’s going to go in and that’s why he’s one of the leading scorers in the country.” – Jeremy Davies, Sophomore defenceman

“He’s a guy that cares very deeply about his teammates. He wants to win and he’ll do whatever it takes to win. His on-ice play and his demeanor off the ice is something that a lot of guys look up to. Especially me, as a senior, I look up to that.” – Trevor Owens, Senior defenceman

“As a goalie, you know he’s always going to backcheck for you. He’s going to be skating back as hard as he possibly can, doing whatever it takes — whether it’s blocking shots or getting pucks off the glass, you know he’s always going to be there for you, doing his job.” – Ryan Ruck, Junior goaltender

“What makes [Adam] kind of unique and sets him apart from a lot of guys is his will and passion for scoring goals and how hard he works at being the best player on the ice. That drive is what makes him so good.” – Nolan Stevens, Senior forward

He’s hoping he can follow in Brock Boeser’s footsteps
Head coach Travis Green is, understandably, wary of the comparisons coming in between Gaudette and Boeser. And while we’re not saying Gaudette deserves the same level of hype as Vancouver’s golden boy, it’s worth noting that he’s taken a similar path to the pros as Boeser did.

The two young American players were both selected in the same draft class—Boeser late in the first round, and Gaudette in the fifth—and plied their trade in the USHL before developing in the NCAA.

“It’s tough to see him hurt right now—you hate to see that with anyone—but you know, regardless of being hurt, he’s had an unbelievable rookie season and that just goes to show how good the NCAA is doing in developing players,” Gaudette told Canucks Central’s Satiar Shah and Alex Auld during a radio interview on Monday. “It’s good for me to see, too, because it kind of shows that I’m not that far off and it’s right in front of me to grasp. I think it’s mine to lose. It’s definitely refreshing to see a college guy, American guy, doing things like that. It just shows that there’s a lot of potential for other guys to do the same thing.”

Canucks Central
Adam Gaudette on lacing up at centre, wearing no. 88 for Canucks
March 26 2018

He’ll start at centre
All signs are pointing to Gaudette getting his first start Thursday at home against the Edmonton Oilers, and he was informed he’ll get to play at his natural position at centre.

“They’re going to let me start out on centre. They’re going to let me play my game, and I’m excited about that,” Gaudette told Shah and Auld. “I think Coach Green is someone who I’m really going to get along with, really do well playing for him. I’m just excited to get in there and bring my style of game to the team and I’m looking forward to being the best forward and teammate I can to this organization.”

He’ll be sporting No. 88 for the Canucks
Gaudette wore No. 8 during his college career, but that’s already been taken by defenceman Chris Tanev. Double it up, and you’ve got Gaudette’s new digits.

His name is super hashtaggable
With a Twitter handle like @Hockey_Gaud, he’s not messing around on social media. And Hockey Twitter is already taking part:

Seriously, this could be fun.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.