Canucks "rushed" Gaudette to NHL too soon says AHL coach

May 12 2022, 6:07 pm

The Vancouver Canucks have graduated a number of top prospects to the NHL in recent seasons.

However, very few of those prospects spent significant time in their AHL system.

Vancouver’s lack of recent success through their farm system was thrust into the spotlight this week with the Abbotsford Canucks bowing out of the playoffs after just two postseason games.

Trent Cull, just wrapped up his fifth year as the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. Hetouched on a number of issues surrounding the team during an interview on Sportsnet 650’s Halford and Brough show. That included hints that the Jim Benning run organization may have rushed some players to the NHL too soon, and that Vancouver’s new management team is taking a different approach.

The specific example Cull brought up was Adam Gaudette.

Cull believes the Canucks rushed Gaudette

When asked by Sportsnet 650 host Jason Brough about the lack of Canucks prospects to graduate from the AHL to the NHL in recent seasons, here’s what Cull had to say.

“I’ve been in that Tampa organization. Unless those guys are utter superstars, everybody spends time in Syracuse, New York before they go to Tampa. So, that would be a bit of a difference right there [to Vancouver] and a great example would be someone like Adam Gaudette.

“Like, why wouldn’t he have spent two years with us so we can groom him and get him better?

“The goal is to get a more well-rounded, finished product before he’s out of his entry-level contract, as opposed to something that’s maybe rushed and it’s not as finished of a product.

“Sometimes we have to have a greater look, and I know from being inside those organizations, that we have to be patient.

“That’s one of the things I see with the new regime coming in, it’s about doing the right thing.”

Cull was later asked if the 16 games Gaudette played in the AHL were too few for his development. Here’s what Cull said.

“Well, if you’re again asking me my opinion, I would say absolutely.”

“We can’t have a guy who only plays 16 games pro and then he’s gonna play in the NHL and then wonder why he’s not maybe the right product for the group moving forward.

“You need time to acclimate to the National Hockey League.

“I’m not talking about [Elias] Pettersson, who’s the rookie of the year in the National Hockey League. There’s other players who need to spend some time in the American Hockey League so we can hopefully round out their game.”

Looking back at Gaudette’s development

In light of some fascinating comments from Cull, it’s hard to argue with the notion that Gaudette was rushed to the NHL.

After winning the Hobey Baker award as the best player in college hockey back in 2018, Gaudette got a five-game cup of coffee to end the 2017-18 season. He finished with no points in five games.

The next season, Gaudette played just 14 games with the Utica Comets, posting five goals and 11 points in the process. However, he was never given any consistent runway to develop in the AHL.

Gaudette was recalled by the Canucks on October 15, 2018, less than two weeks into the season. He spent most of the season in Vancouver, playing 55 games, although he was returned to the minors briefly on two separate occasions.

What was clear from Gaudette’s rookie NHL season was that he had a good shot and a strong work ethic. However, there were a lot of elements, such as defensive awareness, that were severely lacking.

By the end of the 2018-19 season, Gaudette’s expected goals differential of 40.5% was third-worst on the Canucks, trailing only Erik Gudbranson and Brandon Sutter. He was largely ineffective despite playing heavily sheltered minutes.

Travis Green and the Canucks coaching staff continued to shelter Gaudette in 2019-20. This time around though, Vancouver was deeper at forward thanks to additions such as J.T. Miller, Tanner Pearson, and Josh Leivo. They were able to put Gaudette in a position to succeed by feeding him sheltered minutes on the third line and second power play unit opportunities.

However, as we saw in the 2020 playoffs and later in the 2020-21 season, Gaudette never rounded out his game to the point where he could be trusted as anything more than a bottom-six centre and power play specialist.

Since leaving Vancouver, Gaudette has been placed on waivers, and struggled to maintain a full-time spot in the Ottawa Senators lineup. He’s a pending restricted free agent, but the Massachusetts native could become a UFA if the Senators don’t tender him a qualifying offer.

Trevor BeggsTrevor Beggs

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