By Nathan Fournier
HAWTHORNE, N.Y. – If you walk around Chestnut Hill, Mass., where the campus of Boston College is located, you might find students wearing a “Gaudreaubey Baker” tee-shirt in honor of super sophomore John Gaudreau.
The shirt represents Gaudreau’s candidacy for college hockey’s highest honor, the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding player.
Calgary’s fourth round draft pick in 2011 (104th overall) so far has backed up his 21-goal, 44-point freshman campaign with 11 goals and 23 points in 14 games in his second season with the Boston College Eagles.
“It’s cool to see people so involved with our team at BC,” Gaudreau said of the tee-shirt. “The fans are so into our team, it’s really good to see all the fans and students around us. I am enjoying all of it.”
USA Hockey GM Jim Johannson wasn’t just impressed with the numbers Gaudreau put up as a first year player with the Eagles, but rather some of the intangibles he brought. Johannson mentioned Gaudreau’s clutch play, which was most evident in the National Championship game last year where he had a goal in the 4-1 victory over the Ferris State Bulldogs in Tampa Bay.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but Johannson said Gaudreau should have had a shot at last year’s WJC tournament in Edmonton and Calgary, where the Americans finished in a disappointing seventh place.
Gaudreau said he’s more comfortable and confident on the ice in his second go-around in Hockey East. He didn’t really think about a potential “sophomore slump” after the outstanding freshman year.
There have been some questions regarding his size as USA Hockey lists him a 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds and whether it will translate to the next level. So far at every level he’s played, Gaudreau’s size hasn’t been a detriment to his play.
“I think my speed and shying away from checks in the corner and being quick and shifty down low,” Gaudreau stated on how he eludes defenders.
His skills will be a definite advantage on the big ice in Ufa, Russia at the 2013 World Junior Championship. While Boston College’s home rink, the Conte Forum, is nearly NHL standard at 200×87, Hockey East foes University of New Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts both have a wider ice surface.
Will Gaudreau’s excellent play continue at the next level once his college career comes to an end?
“The NHL is definitely a men’s game, but small guys are having great success,” Johannson said. “I think the sturdiness is coming into his game and I think that will continue.”
Notes: The decision has come down. The IIHF has decided to uphold the Ontario League’s suspension of Stefan Noesen. The Plymouth Whaler, who was on the Americans’ primary roster, left camp Monday morning once the decision was made. The Ottawa Senators first round pick (21st overall) in 2011 was suspended 10 games after his charging penalty on Dec. 8 against the Oshawa Generals. Since the OHL’s suspension runs through the world juniors, the IIHF deemed him ineligible.
“We did send this to the IIHF for their determination to read the rulings through the bylaws,” Johannson said. “There’s an opportunity for them to review, that was done, and that suspension is being held up.
“In the end, he has a 10-game OHL suspension, which in our eyes has become a seven-game IIHF suspension. That’s what we have a challenge in the process, but we respect their decision.”
• If you follow the NFL, you know Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is having a record breaking year after a serious knee injury he suffered last Christmas Eve. Well, the Americans have an Adrian Peterson of their own in Minnesota native Mario Lucia.
Lucia suffered a broken leg at the summer world junior evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The Notre Dame freshman has come back with a vengeance. In nine games, he has five goals and five assists. He also has been named CCHA Rookie of the Week twice in December already.
With Alex Galchenyuk, J.T. Miller and Gaudreau all expected to be top offensive threats for the Americans when the world juniors start, with his current hot streak, you can pencil in Lucia as a top-six forward.