If there can be such a thing as an under the radar Canucks prospect in this day and age, winger Jonah Gadjovich is certainly it.
Vancouver’s second selection of Round 2 of the 2017 draft, the 19-year-old winger hasn’t drawn the headlines of some of the other prospects in the pipeline.
He doesn’t make the highlight reel like Elias Pettersson. He hasn’t piled up the points like Kole Lind. He didn’t win a Memorial Cup in the most high-profile position in hockey like Michael DiPietro.
But three Canucks draft picks walked into Team Canada’s World Junior training camp this year and only Gadjovich stuck.
The reason? He knows his role, and he’s very good at it.
“I was a little bit nervous,” said Gadjovich in a phone interview with Daily Hive from Niagara, Ontario. “I really wanted to make the team. I knew that I just had to play my game.
“I know that I’m not the most skilled player that came into camp but I knew that I had a job to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. I think that that’s what Team Canada recognized. They know that I can be a role player on this team. Now, for me, it’s just about getting the job done.”
Team Canada told the 6-foot-2, 201-pound winger the role they expected him to play in the summer. They likely didn’t have to explain it twice.
The confident Gadjovich had the best quote of all Canucks draft picks back in June, saying at the time: “I’m a power forward. I love being in the corners, I’m heavy on pucks, and I make a living in front of the net.”
And that’s what Canada expects of the 19-year-old when the tournament begins in Buffalo on Boxing Day.
“For me, it’s just about contributing every night,” Gadjovich said of the task at hand with Team Canada. “It doesn’t always have to be getting on the scoresheet. It’s playing the right way. It’s being detailed in everything that I do.”
As the second-heaviest forward on Team Canada’s roster, expect him to be physical. He’s projected to start on a line with a pair of big bodies in Michael McLeod and Drake Batherson in Wednesday’s tune up game against the Czech Republic.
“It’s going to be blocking shots, it’s going to be finishing my checks, it’s going to be taking a hit to make a play, and getting to the front of the net and creating havoc.”
For fans in Vancouver that have seen some reluctant power forwards step onto the ice in recent years, these comments have to read like a breath of fresh air.
“I think that’s important for me moving forward, is to know where I’m going to have my success and where I can contribute. At this stage, it’s about working on my net-front game and I think I already had success. That’s where I score a lot of my goals. I’m good at deflecting pucks and I’m good at tracking rebounds. And finding a way to put the puck in the net.”
He’s not kidding. Check out how Gadjovich scored some of his most recent goals, courtesy of Canucks prospect guru Ryan Biech:
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 10, 2017
Also from Saturday – Gadjovich's 2nd goal of the night.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 4, 2017
And a rebound…
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) December 2, 2017
The well-spoken youngster has 26 points in 21 OHL games this season with Owen Sound, including 15 goals.
Though his team has struggled with a 14-13-5 record, he’s been remarkably consistent, never going two games in a row without a point. He saved his biggest offensive outburst for the last four games before World Junior camp, notching six points in four games.
During a three-point game against Guelph on December 2nd, Gadjovich had 13 shots on net. The rugged winger has averaged more than five shots on goal per game this season, which includes six games with 8+ shots.
Gadjovich says he’s been playing in every situation with Owen Sound, allowing him to grow as a reliable all-around player.
He needs to work on is his skating though, something he got a taste of in his lone NHL preseason game appearance.
“That exhibition game against Vegas that I got to play in was eye-opening. It just showed me the speed of the game at the next level. It showed me some things that I have to work on if I want to get there.”
If he’s going to make it as an NHL player, he needs to be quicker. The Canucks recognize this also, getting their skating coach Ryan Lonsberry to work overtime with him.
“I skated with him all summer and he’s even made a trip up to Owen Sound to skate with me, so he’s been great. I’ve been learning a lot with him.”
Gadjovich appears to be self-aware and mature well beyond his years. It’s easy to forget he just turned 19 two months ago. Remind you of a Canucks prospect from the past?
They’re different players, but Bo Horvat was able to take his game to the next level once he picked up an extra step in his skating.
If Gadjovich can do that, the Canucks may have a very special player on their hands one day.