After going undrafted in 2014, Gaudreau signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Admirals on June 12 of that year. In his first professional season, he tallied 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 43 games.
The following year, Gaudreau had a breakout season as the Admirals’ third-leading scorer with 15 goals and 42 points and earning himself a two-year, entry-level contract with the Predators.
Then, following a 25-goal, 48-point season in Milwaukee, Gaudreau made his presence known on the national stage. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Gaudreau tallied three goals — including two game winners — in the Stanley Cup Final, becoming the first player since 1944 to record his first three NHL goals in a Cup Final.
Then, last season, the expectations were high for Gaudreau coming off his impressive performance against the Penguins. However, recording just three assists in 20 games in Nashville, Gaudreau spent most of his season in Milwaukee, scoring 22 goals and another 43 points. Despite the obvious disappointment of not earning a full-time roster spot with the Preds, Gaudreau stuck with it and cracked Nashville’s opening-night roster back in October.
Now, out to make his spot in Nashville a permanent one, Gaudreau has really come on strong, scoring the first regular season goal of his NHL career in Nashville’s 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.
“It feels good for sure,” Gaudreau said after the win. “I just tried to keep my game simple (the) past three years and believe the offense would come. It feels good for sure to get that one. I’m just trying to focus on doing the right things. I’m not trying to think too far in those goals.”
“It’s awesome,” Preds forward Austin Watson said. “Freddie works so hard and he’s so skilled. It’s tough when those games (without scoring) pile up a little, and you might start to grip the stick a little bit, but kudos to him for playing with confidence and being able to pull through.”
Gaudreau has been featured predominantly on Nashville’s fourth line with some limited time on the third line, playing with any combination of Nick Bonino, Kevin Fiala, Miika Salomaki, Ryan Hartman, Rocco Grimaldi and Zac Rinaldo.
“Lately, I think Freddie’s been terrific,” Preds coach Peter Laviolette said. “To me, it seems like he’s gaining confidence in being here and inside of his game. He’s been really good in the face-off circle. I think he’s a student of the game. I think he puts a lot of thought into the game on how it should be played.”
In 13 games this season, Gaudreau is averaging 7:11 of ice time per game. Wednesday against St. Louis, the 25-year-old center had his best game of the season, registering a goal and +2 rating with three shots in seven minutes of ice time – showing that regardless of who he’s playing with, Gaudreau is out to prove that he is here to stay this time.
“The opportunities that he’s gotten lately, both defensively and offensively, have been very good,” Laviolette said. “His line offensively no matter who is on there has been terrific. They’re not playing much in the defensive zone, they’re generating chances, they’re being smart and they’re being difficult to play against.
“For me, that’s a real positive when you can throw a line out on the ice like that and have them take down some minutes and know that they’re going to be positive minutes.”