Frederick Gaudreau deserves a chance at a full-time roster spot on the Nashville Predators this upcoming season, not to mention an actual locker room stall.
Gaudreau skated in 20 games for Nashville last season. The 25-year-old was primarily a bottom line guy, only notching three assists in those 20 games. No one has forgotten how incredible he was in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, but he couldn’t seem to find that scoring touch with his new jersey number last season.
Can his production be blamed on linemates? Perhaps. As seen below, he skated with Austin Watson, Cody McLeod, Pontus Aberg, and Miikka Salomaki. I don’t know many players who could produce consistently next to dependent players like those.
Before the Preds acquired Kyle Turris, Gaudreau was shuffled around to find the best combination of players on the lower lines. While Gaudreau was struggling to find a spot on ice, Turris was still a Senator, Nick Bonino was still healing, and we hadn’t yet seen Craig Smith’s return to glory.
Once he returned to Milwaukee, Gaudreau was a leader. Without linemate data, we can’t really figure out what kind of players he’s best with, but we do know he scored 22 goals and 21 assists (43 points) in 54 games as an Admiral. Also, as Eric wrote about late last season, he was very clearly the most productive forward on the Admirals all year.
Here’s one ridiculous statistic: Gaudreau only took one minor penalty all season. What?
We also know Gaudreau is sort of like another Colton Sissons or Calle Jarnkrok. He’s versatile. He can play on the wing or at center. Interestingly enough, he’s listed as a right wing on the AHL’s stat page.
This flexibility is key on the third and fourth lines. If Nick Bonino has the third line locked down at center, we can see players like Sissons, Gaudreau, Salomaki, Ryan Hartman, Calle Jarnkrok, or Eeli Tolvanen playing with Bonino.
That leaves more room for known irritants like Hartman and heavy hitters like Salomaki to play fourth-line minutes. Having a cast of flexible players for the bottom two lines will be crucial depending on the opponent.
With the right combinations, Nashville can ice some of the best 3rd and 4th lines in the league. Teams that win the Stanley Cup usually have incredible depth. Nashville has the luxury of putting talented players on lower lines. Gaudreau would be key to a solid bottom-6.
Offensively, Gaudreau is always in the area right around the goal, sometimes taking several whacks at the puck to tap it in the net. He isn’t like Scott Hartnell or Viktor Arvidsson; he’s more one of those “right place at the right time” guys. He remains mobile and is never hesitant about taking the puck right to the net. He also has a beautiful wrist shot.
Gaudreau is versatile and doesn’t have to be a heavy hitter in order to earn playing time. As mentioned above, he is mobile and quick on his skates. He doesn’t have to be grinding it out with a huge defenseman in order to navigate the net-front and pot some goals. Check out this video below from Gaudreau’s season with Milwaukee. He scored five goals in three games in late January and early February:
In Milwaukee, Gaudreau scored 10 of his 21 goals on the power play. We certainly do not expect him to be on Nashville’s first power play unit, but he would be a good addition to the second or third PP unit because of his speed and skill. He reads the game a similar fashion to Calle Jarnkrok. You rarely see either player out of place or caught behind a play. They both have a high hockey IQ.
Gaudreau was signed before last season began to a three-year deal. Last season and this season (2018-2019) are two-way deals and next season (2019-2020) is a one-way deal. He’s locked up for an even more reasonable price. Set to make $650,000 at the NHL level this season and only $700,000 next season, someone like Gaudreau could look like a steal for a team that’s chasing the Stanley Cup.
I always go on rants about pairing players with the best linemates possible for that player. I’m not Coach Laviolette, but I know that some players have a tendency to increase their production when they play with talented team members. The right line combination for Frederick Gaudreau could mean massive success for Nashville.
Truth be told, it makes the most sense to have Frederick Gaudreau as a permanent Predator this season. There is a wealth of talent in the minors right now. Players like Emil Pettersson, Tyler Moy, Connor Brickley, Anthony Richard, and rookie camp standout Zach Magwood deserve playing time in Milwaukee. They can’t get that if NHL-caliber players are sitting in the AHL unable to crack a stacked roster.
Along with Gaudreau, Anthony Richard and Emil Pettersson seem most likely to crack Nashville’s solid roster. Nashville is a younger group this season without veterans Scott Hartnell and Mike Fisher.
Dan Lavender of Admirals Roundtable rightfully dubbed Gaudreau a leader for younger Admirals players. Someone with that sort of leadership ability is definitely someone I want to see in a gold sweater this season.
All statistics and graphics are courtesy of hockeyviz.com, hockey-reference.com, and AHL.com.