Entering training camp in 2017, the whole hockey world has been introduced to Gaudreau, and they’ll be looking for more of him this season.
The former undrafted rookie is coming back to the Predators with the chance to make the opening night roster for the first time. Despite his stellar performance in the Stanley Cup Final in June, he won’t be resting on his laurels at all.
“Last year so much good experience for me,” Gaudreau said after an informal practice last week. “There are so many things that I’ve learned throughout the year. Coming here, I feel more comfortable, but the focus is still just to go hard every practice and do my stuff.”
An undrafted player out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Gaudreau earned a contract with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in 2014. After impressing in the minors for two seasons, he signed an entry-level contract with Milwaukee’s parent club, the Nashville Predators.
He played in nine regular season games for the Predators in 2016-17, but made a name for himself when he scored three goals in the Stanley Cup Final as an injury replacement for Ryan Johansen.
Now that Gaudreau has seen time with the big club, and shown his worth on the national stage, he’s ready for the chance to crack the opening night roster out of training camp. With so much change to the forward group this offseason, Gaudreau has a great chance to make the roster. He knows he has performed in high-pressure environments, but to him, he isn’t taking anything for granted.
Gaudreau’s goal is still just to show his worth to the team.
“It was the biggest stage in hockey and the most pressured situation I could play in,” he said. “But, like I just said, all that stuff was good experience for me and I’m coming here different than last year, but still with the same focus.”
Even for a player that has played under 20 total games for the team, he still has plenty of respect from the organization. So much so that the team offered to give him his preferred number, 89, the one he wore in Milwaukee and throughout his junior career. His old Predators number, 32, was assigned by the team.
He did not have to ask for the change, the team offered the opportunity, a strong indication of his value to the team.
With some NHL time under his belt, plus many relationships formed at the AHL level, Gaudreau enters the 2017-18 with plenty of familiarity with the team’s system and players.
“I would say all the guys,” Gaudreau said. “Just getting to know them last year and just all the games I played last year, got to know the guys a little more than at the beginning. I would say all the guys from last year and all the new guys too look like really cool guys, so I feel comfortable with everyone.”
Veterans report to Nashville Predators training camp on September 14 with their first on-ice practice session taking place September 16.