It’s time for our annual countdown of the best 25 Nashville Predators players under 25 years old!
This is not only a tradition here at OTF, but is also something that you might see at many other SBNation NHL blogs. The premise is simple: rank the 25 best players who have not yet reached their 25th birthday (as of August 1st, 2018).
As you may have noticed by now, Frederick Gaudreau isn’t eligible for this list - he’s already 25. But, due to the circumstances of my opinion, I made the executive decision to throw him on anyway. Now you’re probably wondering how in the hell I could rank him above Colton Sissons. Read on to find out!
By The Numbers
Aside from scoring nearly 0.80 points per game in the AHL last season, Gaudreau posted a modest three assists in 20 games with the Predators.
After a modest career in the QMJHL, Gaudreau has practically figured out the AHL: he has molded into a dominant offensive and defensive force for Milwaukee. Gaudreau was 35th among forwards who played 20 or more AHL games last season in points-per-game on an awful offensive team. This was accompanied by a 17.0% shooting percentage which was only good for 30th among that same group. Gaudreau peppered opposing nets with 2.89 shots per game last season — good for only 52nd in this group but 2nd on the Admirals —while splitting time between center and the wing (Side note: current Preds’ forward Rocco Grimaldi was fifth on said list last season with 3.43 shots per game). It’s obvious Gaudreau can go toe to toe with any forward in the American League:
So this may beg the question: why can’t Gaudreau crack the Predators’ lineup? Well, the most obvious answer is his linemates. I think it’s reasonable not to expect too much out of an NHL career from Gaudreau but plenty of players have bloomed late as bottom-six forwards. In his most significant time in Nashville, Gaudreau spent the majority of his time playing with Austin Watson and Cody McLeod.
This did, uh, not go well as you can see. Gaudreau finished with positive shot rates only when he wasn’t playing with those two. In fact, his most productive time came with Scott Hartnell. In what could be a revamped fourth line that includes better skating forwards like Rocco Grimaldi (at least for 27 games), Gaudreau can expect more impactful scoring chances and a better relative Corsi rate (last season it was -3.51%). More time spent with Colton Sissons should improve both of their goals and shots-against rates. Time will tell.
Gaudreau has a really explosive yet underrated wrist shot. This isn’t a move you see often on the Predators’ power play but imagine that the puck-carrier throws a low wrist shot to the leg pads in search of a rebound — could be fairly successful.
Above is a really solid shift from Gaudreau. He notices the defenseman pinching and takes quick steps to cover the point. Once the puck is kept in he heads straight back for open ice and does an excellent job tying up Bellemare in front of the net allowing Salomaki to get open.
This clip doesn’t show much - although it leads to a wacky Cody McLeod goal - but I wanted to show off Gaudreau’s face-off versatility. He recognizes the tie up coming from Radek Faksa and uses his opposite side to win the battle and catalyze a good dump-in.
Gaudreau is entering the second year of his second pro contract. He will earn $70K if in Milwaukee and $650K if in Nashville and will carry a cap hit of $666.7K. Upon expiry in 2020, he will be an unrestricted free agent.
Gaudreau is going to get a good look early this season as it looks like he will fill in for Austin Watson while suspended. There is a still a lot to be desired here, but I think with actual good NHL forwards on his line, Gaudreau can be a solid bottom-six contributor.
He’s getting up there in age, but Gaudreau reminds of me of a point in Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts from this week:
Gaudreau has now had two 20-goal AHL seasons and has a similar points-per-game rate in the AHL as Martel and Gourde. I’m by no means suggesting he can be a near-30-goal scorer in the NHL, but I wouldn’t write him off as a solid third/fourth-line guy.