Gaudette debuts on Leafs' line with Tavares, Marner

Sep 22 2022, 8:59 pm

With the Vancouver Canucks, Chicago Blackhawks, and — most recently — the Ottawa Senators, things have never quite worked out at the NHL level for 25-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs forward Adam Gaudette.

A highly rated prospect coming out of Northeastern University in Boston, Gaudette won the Hobey Baker award in 2018 as the NCAA’s top male hockey player. A Canucks 2015 fifth-round pick, Gaudette was supposed to be a diamond in the rough for the Vancouver franchise in need of some forward depth.

It didn’t quite work out that way, though.

Over parts of four seasons in Vancouver, Gaudette had 21 goals and 31 assists in 153 games for the Canucks in his career.

He never averaged more than 13 minutes a night or scored more than 12 goals in a season while playing for the Canucks, struggling to crack the team’s top-six forward group.

And then, of course, Gaudette was eventually traded to Chicago in 2021, before finding his way to the Ottawa Senators via the waiver wire last November. He spent just 15 games playing for Chicago, before getting 50 in with Ottawa last season.

In short, he’s done a fair bit of moving around in not that much time, with one wondering if he’ll be able to stick with a team long-term.

There were initially rumours that Gaudette had ruffled some feathers in Vancouver’s locker room related to being patient zero in the team’s 2021 COVID-19 outbreak, though he emphatically called those rumours “bullshit.”

But it’s time for a fresh start with the Leafs, with Gaudette having signed a one-year deal this offseason, worth $750,000.

And for now, Gaudette’s biggest supporter appears to be Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, giving him a chance to play alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner on the first day of Leafs’ training camp.

“We need some guys to come in and pop, if you will, not unlike the way [Michael Bunting] did last year. We see Gaudette as a candidate to do that and we’re going to give him an opportunity to do so,” Keefe said at today’s training camp on-ice session.

Like Gaudette, the now-27-year-old Bunting had never really found his footing in the NHL, having played just 26 games before coming to the Leafs. But he found instant chemistry with Auston Matthews and Marner, scoring 62 points in his first full NHL season, and even finished third in voting for NHL rookie of the year.

It might sound cliche, but this year could really be make-or-break for his NHL future.

Will Gaudette become the player Canucks fans hoped he would be when he first came into the NHL, albeit across the country?

Only time will tell, but he couldn’t be getting much of a better opportunity to showcase his skills in his new home.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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