CALGARY - Just over a year ago, even the most die-hard Calgary Flames fan had to give Google a serious workout after John Gaudreau was drafted.
Fast forward to now, and the diminutive winger has about as much buzz surrounding him as any other Flames prospect attending the NHL club’s summer development camp.
“I’m not in Calgary much or look on the websites or stuff like that, but my mom always tells me — she’s always looking up stuff — and says, ‘People are talking about you. Good job,’ ” Gaudreau said after a developmental camp session at the WinSport facility Tuesday.
“I just say, ‘Thanks mom.’
“But she’s happy, so that’s all that matters.”
The Flames are pretty happy, too, having seen how far the club’s 2011 draft choice (fourth round, 104th overall) has come in the last year.
Gaudreau was known to most as just being the small forward — he was listed as 5-foot-6, 141 lbs. but is now listed at 5-foot-8, 155 lbs — but the Flames saw the skill possessed by the teenager from Carneys Point, N.J., and were more than willing to draft the teenager.
Since that fateful day, Gaudreau made the powerful Boston College club as a true freshman, was named MVP of Hockey East conference — and earned the same accolade at the prestigious Beanpot Tournament — and played a big part in the Eagles claiming the NCAA crown. (Check out youtube.com/watch?v=yFwYRz00gtc for the goal he scored against Ferris State in the Frozen Four semifinal.)
The detractors can point to his size all they want, but that’s incredibly rare success for a player at such a young age.
“I’m really thankful to all the coaches who coached me all those years,” said Gaudreau, who’ll celebrate his 19th birthday next month.
“I didn’t think I was going to get drafted, and to have the past year-and-a-half I’ve had, all the experiences I’ve had, has been memorable. I’m thankful for it every day.”
After lighting up the USHL in the 2010-11 season and leading the Dubuque Fighting Saints to the league title, Gaudreau had high hopes of cracking the Boston College roster.
But the 21 goals and 44 points, second most on the team, he collected in his freshman year surpassed anything he expected by a mile.
“Coming in as a freshman, I was hoping just to get in every game and get a couple points here and there and hope to contribute to the team as much as I could,” Gaudreau said. “But the coaching staff put me in a bunch of opportunities — powerplay, penalty kill, played me with (Chris) Kreider, played me with Paul Carey — guys who played in the NHL and AHL (after) — and those guys taught me a lot.”
Kreider, who led the Eagles with 45 points, left after the season to join the New York Rangers and became a playoff hero by collecting five goals and seven points in the club’s run to the Eastern Conference final.
“That was exciting,” Gaudreau said of his former teammate bursting onto the scene. “I was texting him after every game, and he’s saying, ‘Do you think I did well, John?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, you did well. Are you kidding me? You scored three game-winning goals.’ He helped me a lot.”
Having seen what Kreider has done in the NHL ranks, you bet Gaudreau is wondering if he can do the same.
“I hope it will happen to me,” Gaudreau said. “I look up to guys like him, guys who do so well. It has crossed my mind, and hopefully, I get to play here for the Flames.”
After all, this is a team which has given him a chance and believes he can defy the odds — and Gaudreau knows it.
“Throughout my years, everybody has looked down on me because I’m small, but to have someone supporting me instead of criticizing me gives me a lot more energy and more momentum to show these guys I can do it. Hopefully, I will do it some day.”
On Twitter: @SUNRandySportak