Gaudreau’s rise to prominence gives Predators a playoff boost

Aaron Bell/CHL Images

With his AHL season over following the Milwaukee Admirals elimination from the Calder Cup Playoffs, former Shawinigan Cataractes and Drummondville Voltigeurs forward Frederick Gaudreau figured his season might be over. The Nashville Predators added him to their playoff roster on April 26th, but he didn’t see action for an entire month.

When top centremen Ryan Johansen (Portland Winterhawks) and Mike Fisher (Sudbury Wolves) went down with injuries in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, it was Gaudreau who got the call from head coach Peter Laviolette, slotting into the Nashville lineup to help the Preds win Games 5 and 6 against the Anaheim Ducks to clinch their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance.

With his parents making the drive from Bromont, Quebec  to Pittsburgh for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, Gaudreau delivered in a big way, scoring his first NHL goal to tie the score at three in the third period before the Predators fell 5-3.

Down 2-0 with the series shifting to an electrifying atmosphere at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, he sparked the Predators with a goal in in Game 3 as they took a commanding 5-1 victory. Gaudreau struck again two nights later, netting the winner in Game 4 as Nashville knotted the series at two with a 4-1 triumph.

Despite not having his own stall in the Predators locker room, the hard-working Gaudreau has quickly earned the respect and admiration of head coach Peter Laviolette.

He’s the first NHL player since Chicago’s John Harms in 1944 to score the first three goals of his NHL career in the Stanley Cup Final.

“When you start out the way he did, having to work for everything, literally every contract and every opportunity to prove yourself, and at this level it’s no different, that’s on him,” said Laviolette, who is in the hunt for his second Stanley Cup and first since 2006. “There’s a lot of people who have helped along the way ‎in his development from his coaches in junior to our coaches in the minor leagues to our development coaches who have helped him from summer to summer, but that speaks to Freddy to be honest with you, to take the road he has and come out on the end and be a contributing player in the Stanley Cup Finals.”

Gaudreau’s teammates have taken notice too. Two-time OHL Defenceman of the Year and back-to-back Mastercard Memorial Cup champion Ryan Ellis spoke highly of the new addition following Game 4.

“Freddy’s getting it done, I’m really happy for him. He’s a guy that’s worked so hard coming up, he’s not accepting anything but the best, he’s going out and giving it everything he’s got, it’s great to see a guy like that.”

An undrafted 24-year-old with nine prior games of NHL experience before the playoffs started, Gaudreau had a productive 2016-17 season in Milwaukee, posting 25 goals along with 23 assists for 48 points over 66 games. He joins another former Mastercard Memorial Cup champion in Predators teammate Austin Watson (Windsor Spitfires, 2009) as one who has benefitted from a prolonged stay in Milwaukee, developing his game within the organization.

Gaudreau was never drafted to the QMJHL either, signing as a free agent with Shawinigan in 2011 before winning a Mastercard Memorial Cup title with the organization the next spring. His QMJHL career included 134 points (50-84–134) over 195 career regular season games between Shawinigan and Drummondville from 2011-14.

Whether he’s playing centre or the wing, seeing a regular shift or slotting in for teammates, Gaudreau has made the most of his opportunity in Nashville and is just two wins away from Stanley Cup glory.

Game 5 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final goes Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

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