Editor’s note: No, Adam Gaudette isn’t a Bruin. But considering he’s a Massachusetts kid who played his college hockey at Northeastern, he definitely fits the “Boston hockey coverage” angle we’re going for. Enjoy!
When Adam Gaudette signed his entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks back in March, he knew it was the best decision for his career. He had just completed a stellar junior season at Northeastern, where he led the nation with 60 points and won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college hockey. And to top it off, he helped lead the Huskies to their first Beanpot victory in thirty years.
After a season that consisted of both personal and team success, Gaudette faced a tough decision: he could sign with the Canucks and suit up in the NHL that same week or go into the summer with the intent of going back to school.
He picked the former.
Gaudette made his NHL debut on March 29 and registered two shots on goal in Vancouver’s victory over Edmonton. He finished the season with a plus-two rating in five games and averaged 12:47 time on ice as the Canucks won four out of their last five games. While it’s easy to let nerves get the best of you during your first handful of professional games, it was the opposite for Gaudette.
“I think it was more excitement [than nerves] and I looked at it like another hockey game,” Gaudette told Stanley Cup of Chowder. “I think I got the hang of it quicker than most would, and I felt more comfortable as the games went on. The guys in the locker room were awesome. They made me feel welcome and comfortable right away, and I think that helped a lot.”
Getting to play in a handful of games at the NHL level has helped Gaudette tremendously this summer as he prepares for his first full season. He has spent a considerable amount of time in the gym, as he works to strengthen his build and improve his size to keep up with the physicality of the professional game. He’s also worked on his skating as he tries to become a more fluent and faster skater.
“I knew [the NHL] was going to be fast, but you don’t really know until you get out there,” Gaudette said on the speed of the game. “It was definitely fast, especially being a center in the D-zone, things happen much more quickly. It’s something I think I adjusted to pretty well but it’s also something I need to work on to make my life easier to lock in a spot on this team.”
While Gaudette learned a lot on his own during his five-game stint, he also took in as much as he could from the veterans on the roster. And to be able to play with both Henrik and Daniel Sedin as they wrapped up their historic careers, Gaudette said, was “very special”.
“Those guys are legends in the league and have done so much for the league and even more for the city of Vancouver,” he said. “To be able to sit a few stalls down from them in the locker room was awesome. I tried to take in as much as I could from them and they’re true professionals on and off the ice. They set a very high standard for players and the Canucks organization. I learned a lot [from them].”
Gaudette, who grew up in Taunton but moved to Braintree with his family at the age of nine, is excited to continue his young career this coming season. The five-game spell last season was a good setup for what he had to work on this summer, and he has put in countless hours of training to improve his overall game. Making the team out of training camp is the only thing on Gaudette’s mind.
“Right now, I’m focused on making the team right off the bat and being an impactful player right away,” said Gaudette. “I’m just looking to play my game and become a professional on and off the ice. I don’t have any set numbers, I’m just trying to do the best I can to help the team win. All I can do right now is work hard in the gym and on the ice to put myself in a good spot to make the team come September.”
If Gaudette makes the Canucks, his only trip to the TD Garden this season will be on November 8. The Garden is a building in which Gaudette has seen a lot of success, from the Beanpot victory last February or the Hockey East championship in 2016.
He played a big role in elevating Northeastern to the top of the college hockey ladder in Boston and is looking forward to potentially returning to the Garden as a member of the Canucks, who have had some pretty spirited games against the Bruins in recent years.
“Absolutely, I love playing there,” said Gaudette. “I have had some pretty good puck luck in the Garden the past couple years and I can’t wait to see what the crowd is going to be like when I hopefully play there in November.”
Gaudette, who grew up a Bruins fan, also said with a laugh, “I guess I can’t be a Bruins fan anymore. It’s funny how it worked out.”
Although Gaudette will not be returning to Northeastern this coming season, he sees a lot of similarities between the Canucks and Huskies. Vancouver has a young core, much like Northeastern had when Gaudette was a freshman, and is looking to turn their team around after sitting out of the playoffs the last three years. Gaudette said it is “exciting” to be considered part of the team’s young core.
Not only has Gaudette flourished with every team he has played on, he has done so at a faster rate than expected. He was dominant in three seasons at Thayer Academy, which led to him skipping his senior year to join Cedar Rapids of the USHL. What was going to be a multi-year stint in the USHL turned out to be a one-year stint, as Gaudette opted to enroll at Northeastern earlier than anticipated. And after three incredible seasons at Northeastern, he made the tough decision to turn pro a year early.
While it’s easy for anyone to look back and ask, ‘what if?’, Gaudette is happy with his decision to sign with the Canucks and is ready to do whatever it takes to make the team this season.
If his decision stays consistent with his hockey career thus far, he will become a productive NHL player sooner rather than later.
“The only way I can have a long NHL career is if I devote myself to it,” said Gaudette. “I am ready to do so, and I can’t wait to get started.”