Johnny Gaudreau is on pace for an even better season than his rookie one. He is currently on pace for an 82 point year, and as of late he is on fire. To think, that a 4th round pick, has come all this way. It is incredible, he in fact, is one of the most talented players to watch, Mr. Johnny Hockey. You would have to bet that the Flames are going to want to sign these young guys long term.
One look at the play of heralded Flames rookie Johnny Gaudreau and it’s easy to see the kid’s a star.
Despite his small stature, Gaudreau lived up to the hype in his first NHL season, tallying 64 points in 80 games. This season he is doing even more, already with 39 points, in 39 games.
While it’s clear Gaudreau is an elite NHLer, it’s less clear how sustainable his production will be or how high his ceiling really is.
Yet watching the young star brings to mind another small-sized, offensively gifted forward – Patrick Kane.
It may seem absurd to compare Gaudreau and his one season of NHL experience to Kane – a two-time Stanley Cup champion who’s risen to become one of the best players in the sport – but more similarities exist than one might think.
The most obvious of these is simply their style of play. Like Kane, Gaudreau has bypassed his lack of size by utilizing his elite speed and stickhandling skill, often dipping in and out of defensive coverages and embarrassing opposing blue-liners along the way.
Both players’ skill sets align primarily with playmaking, using their exceptional vision to improve the play of those around them, though both are no strangers to putting the puck in the net.
A quick look at tallying plays from each forward shows their similarities.
We see Kane use his speed and stickhandling ability to turn defenders inside out before finding the back of the net. Gaudreau finds success in a similar manner,capitalizing on his speed and quick hands to find clear shooting lanes.
Kane’s name has recently become synonymous with the shootout as he’s taken to using his unmatched stickhandling skill to embarrass some of the league’s best netminders. As we’ve seen this season, Gaudreau is no slouch in the shootout, or 3-on-3 either.
While the eye test deems both players similar in style, their progression through their respective careers shows this bond to be an even stronger one.
Gaudreau ended up with 64 points through 80 games. Kane’s rookie season saw slightly higher numbers though the production level was similar, as he posted 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists) in 82 games.
With the overall decline in NHL scoring, it’s not surprising that Gaudreau’s numbers were slightly lower, but even so, he trailed Kane by only 8 points.
Kane’s strong rookie campaign saw him lead all fellow NHL newcomers in scoring, earning him the 2008 Calder Trophy. Gaudreau, who was one of the favourites to win the award, ended up losing to rookie defencemen Aaron Ekblad, of the Florida Panthers.
Both players followed similar paths to the league as well in terms of offensive production.
In his final season of play before entering the NHL, Kane posted 145 points in 58 games for the OHL’s London Knights. Gaudreau’s final season for Boston College prior to this season saw him post 80 points in 40 games. Kane’s total appears much higher, but the points-per-game pace for both players is fairly similar – 2.5 PPG for Kane and 2 PPG for Gaudreau.
Internationally, both forwards scored 9 points in 7 games for Team USA at the IIHF World Junior Championship. Kane did so in 2007, finishing with a bronze medal. Gaudreau’s time came in 2013, and his team-leading production helped the Americans capture their third gold medal in the history of the tournament.
It’s still very early, but as the one they call Johnny Hockey continues to defy expectations and produce at an elite level, one can’t help but wonder if his career trajectory will continue on its paralleled tracks with Kane’s.
The latter forward has gone on to lead his team to championships, compete in the Olympic games, and has seen his production rise to career bests of 30 goals and 88 points.
Gaudreau hasn’t quite proven himself as being at Kane’s level just yet, but he’s close. If he can progress and grow his game like Chicago’s heralded winger did, then Gaudreau may similarly see his stock rise until he joins Kane and the rest of the league elite atop the NHL.
Considering it took Chicago a 1st-overall draft pick to land Kane, the Flames would be thanking their lucky stars if Gaudreau – taken in the fourth round (104th overall) in 2011 – came anywhere close to reaching the Blackhawks star’s level.