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As game evolves, Flames' Gaudreau seeking next step

Sunday, 07.06.2014 / 2:40 PM
Aaron Vickers  - NHL.com Correspondent

CALGARY -- Johnny Gaudreau's home in Carneys Point, N.J., is littered with hardware.

The 20-year-old Calgary Flames prospect is looking to add one more to the mantle, an ESPY. But as the award nominations and accolades continue to pile up, so too does the expectation that Gaudreau can take the next step and jump into the NHL.

Gaudreau, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner, is among the finalists for the ESPN honor of top male college athlete.

"It's exciting," he said Saturday following the Flames' first on-ice session at their annual development camp. "I'm up there against four pretty talented athletes. It's great to be recognized, and I'm going to be excited to get out there and meet the other guys."

If he gets clearance, that is. He still needs to get permission from his parents.

"As of now I am [going]," said Gaudreau, competing with Creighton's Doug McDermott (basketball), Penn State's David Taylor (wrestling), Albany's Lyle Thompson (lacrosse) and Florida State's Jameis Winston (football). "I still need to speak to my parents about it. It's kind of cutting into my workout schedule at home but I think they'll let me skip."

It's entirely possible Gaudreau will walk away from the awards ceremony with another trophy after his junior and final year at Boston College. The sparkplug forward had 36 goals and 80 points in just 40 games. It stands as the third-highest point total in Eagles history and three shy of Craig Janney's school record set in the 1986-87 season. He tied Paul Kariya's Hockey East record when he put together a 31-game point streak and was held off the score sheet only twice during the season.

In addition to winning the Hobey Baker Award, Gaudreau collected the Hockey East Player of the Year Award, Division I New England Player of the Year Award, was named USA Hockey's College Hockey Player of the Year and was the 2014 Walter Brown Award winner.

"I'm sure there's a lot of awards I haven't won," he said. "The most important was the Frozen Four, that we didn't win. It was a good season by our team this year, but came a little short."

After signing his first pro contract with the Flames in April, Gaudreau won't get another opportunity at a national title. He may get another shot at a world title, though.

After his season with Boston College and the Flames ended, Gaudreau represented the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Championship, an event that boosted the esteem of the 5-foot-9, 160-pound wing.

"It gave me a lot more confidence," said Gaudreau, Calgary's fourth-round pick (No. 104) in the 2011 NHL Draft. "I learned a lot out there playing with NHL guys, playing against NHL guys. Getting to play against [Alex] Ovechkin and [Jaromir] Jagr – I think Jagr was playing in the NHL before I was even born – is something pretty special.

"I think it's going to help me in the long run."

So will the advice he's already received about being an undersized forward in a League that is continually getting bigger.

"I've talked to a lot of small guys in the NHL, and my agent has a few smaller guys in the NHL, like [Martin] St. Louis," Gaudreau said. "I've got a lot of great advice. I've just got to make sure I follow in their footsteps and do what they've been doing.

"They said you need to be strong in your legs, definitely work out your legs. And you don't need to be too big in your upper body because you won't be able to stickhandle that well. Just a lot of great pointers from a lot of great guys and I really appreciate it.

"It's just doing the little things right, keep working out, making sure I'm skating and getting stronger. Obviously I'm going to get stronger. I have to make sure I keep working out and working hard."

He'll continue to seek advice in Calgary's development camp, his fourth with the Flames.

But during the session Saturday at the WinSport facility at Canada Olympic Park, the focus was more on Gaudreau's current skill set on display for the fans in attendance at the skate, which was open to the public.

"I know there was a lot of 'oohing' and 'ahhhing' with Johnny up there [in the stands]," said Flames general manager Brad Treliving, doing his best to temper expectations. "This time of year there's such a variance with these players. Some haven't been on the ice for a while. I don't care who they are. They're all scared to death today.

"It's the first day. You've got everybody watching them. You have to keep everything in context."

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