BOSTON — Former Boston College star Johnny Gaudreau was a Calder Trophy finalist last season as one of the NHL’s best rookies. Some people weren’t sure if he’d be able to replicate that success or become a legit star, but he’s put those concerns to bed with a fantastic sophomore campaign for the Calgary Flames.
Gaudreau ranks sixth in the league in scoring with 63 points in 61 games. His 39 assists are tied for the ninth-most in the league, and he’s one of just six players with 60 or more games played producing at a point-per-game rate or better.
His next chance to add to his point total is Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. The 22-year-old scored a hat trick versus the B’s earlier this season when Boston visited Calgary.
“I think everything was just clicking at that time,” Gaudreau said Tuesday afternoon at the Flames’ hotel. “I happened to get a couple goals and get the win there in overtime.”
Gaudreau isn’t the only young building block the Flames are relying on to have a productive forward group in the long run. Sean Monahan, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, recently became the first Flames player to score 20 goals in each of his first three seasons since former Calder winner Sergei Makarov in 1992.
Monahan enters Tuesday’s game after tallying 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 13 February games, while his linemate Gaudreau posted 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) over that same span.
“I think me and (Monahan) have been playing really well together,” Gaudreau said. “We’re building our chemistry together here. Our power play has been clicking here, too, in the past few games. We got to keep the power play going and try to string along a couple wins.”
The Gaudreau-Jiri Hudler-Monahan line was the league’s top-scoring trio for February with 36 points. This offensive production has translated into Gaudreau and Monahan having a 54.17 goals for percentage as linemates on the season.
Not only is the Gaudreau-Monahan tandem generating offense for itself and teammates. It also is driving puck possession, evidenced by the duo’s 51.59 Corsi percentage when together at even strength. That’s a pretty good rate for a Calgary team that ranks 21st in possession for the season at just 47.7 percent during even-strength play.
The Flames aren’t going to make the playoffs this season and they still have a lot of roster work to complete before becoming a legit Stanley Cup contender. That said, having a tandem like Gaudreau-Monahan thriving at even strength and on the power play is an excellent starting point.
Building through the draft often is the best way to build a perennial contender, and Gaudreau and Monahan are proof that Calgary should follow this method and not make risky moves to accelerate the process.
Thumbnail photo via Candice Ward/USA TODAY Sports Images
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