A list that already includes guys like Pontus Aberg, Coltons Sissons, and Harry Zolnierczyk.
With a huge goal in the 2nd period to put the Preds up 2-1 over the Penguins in Game 3, Freddy G proved he is more than capable of contributing some offense to a team that so desperately needs it. He already proved his defensive worth late in the Ducks series, playing some tough minutes against guys like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf.
But did anyone expect him to do something like this?
I know I didn’t.
This is a guy who went from playing in the QMJHL, then in the AHL, then to the ECHL, then back to the AHL, then was called up in act of desperation when the team lost Ryan Johansen and needed Colton Sissons to step up to the top line. And this kid (he’s 24, but in hockey years he’s a kid) comes in and scores two goals in the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins.
Including that laser beam that snuck under Murray’s glove to send the Nashville crowd into a frenzy.
He played over 13 minutes in Game 3 and helped generate 14 shot attempts while out there. He was out there for 18 shot attempts the other way, playing mostly against the 3rd line with Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson, but he showed an ability to jump into the offensive attack when the time was right.
Consider also that he played 13 minutes as the 4th line center, which normally eats up less than 10 minutes per game. His ability to put up quality minutes like that means that guys like Filip Forsberg (16:50), James Neal (14:33) and Mike Fisher (18:05) had to do a little bit less work—all three had less ice time last night than they did in the first two games.
Here was James Neal on Gaudreau stepping up in the spotlight:
Freddy has come up, we seen him in training camp. He came up for a few games. We saw he had great skill. I think he's surprising everybody how good he is. He's calm and collective. He's a young kid, in a huge, crazy atmosphere, a huge time with the Cup Final. He's done an unbelievable job.
The whole team seemed to be enjoying his performance last night. The bench celebrated his goal with much enthusiasm, as did a rather famous couple in the stands.
To give you an idea of how much of a long shot Gaudreau was to get to this point, here is a quick snapshot of Gaudreau’s page on Hockey’s Future, an online hockey prospect database and publication.
They give him a “D” in probability of success in the league. Which is, you know, one step above a failing grade and indicates a player “unlikely to reach potential” in the league.
I’d say he reached some potential last night.
The best part about his success last night, aside from scoring the game winning goal, is that he seems to have wrangled away that 4th line center position away from Vernon Fiddler, who has struggled. With guys like Gaudreau and Zolnierczyk showing that they can provide pressure both offensively and defensively, it seems unlikely that we will see anyone but those guys out there for that bottom unit.
In these playoffs, the Predators have done an unbelievable job at finding the “next man” to step up and perform. It’s all the more enjoyable when its a guy like Freddy Gaudreau who surprises us with a performance like last night.