After a sophomore season that saw him put up 26 goals and 26 assists over 37 games for Northeastern University - good enough for ninth in college hockey - the biggest adjustment Adam Gaudette needed to make this summer to take his game to the next level was between the ears.
With an NHL career squarely in his sights, he had an end of season heart-to-heart with head coach Jim Madigan who helped drive home the point that being good enough is not good enough with aspirations like that.
"We tell our guys that if you want to get to the pro level, conduct yourselves like a pro right now. It's one thing to put in the work on the ice, which he certainly does, but it's another to have the discipline and dedication to make the sacrifices and commitment away from the rink as well and he's done that," Madigan said of his top line center, who was drafted by Vancouver in the 5th round in 2015. "You see it in the details of his strength and conditioning, his practice habits, his stretching to make sure he's limber, workouts, cold tubs, hot tubs, all that stuff puts you in the best situation to perform at your best for practice and, ultimately, in games. You can see him doing all those things every day and he's being rewarded on the ice."
In seven games so far this season, Gaudette has six goals and seven assists, including four goals - two on the power play, one shorthanded and one even strength - this past weekend as he helped the Huskies sweep UMass-Lowell and catapult them into the Top 15 of the national poll.
"Over the past two years, he's become a better 200-ft player," said Madigan. "His offensive skills were always there and he continues to refine those offensive skills, but he's become a really reliable two-way guy. He's just a hard working, driven kid who wants to score goals and hounds pucks. There's not a lot of things you have to ask him to do on the ice. He just does them."
In addition to improving his shot, strength and speed, Gaudette's been paying particular attention to face-offs. With a 45% success rate, it's something he felt he struggled with last season.
"I had a tough time with that and I'm trying to clean it up. It's a little thing that's easy to focus on during practice that can make a big difference in a game. It's definitely something I want to focus on especially when I'm relied upon to win those face-offs late in a game," he explained.
Another area of focus for him this season is maintaining his weight. "I've always been on the lighter side and my body's definitely not filled out yet," said the 6'1, 182 pound Braintree, MA native. "So, I'm just trying to eat as much as I can and get in extra lifts when I can because I'm playing a lot of minutes and sweating a lot and losing a lot of weight.
In the past, I've dropped five or seven pounds during the season and I'm going to need those pounds at the next level when I'm hopefully playing twice as many games."
Not only does Madigan appreciate Gaudette's hard work as it impacts their success on the ice, but also for the impact it has on his locker room.
"He leads on the ice more than anything. He's got a tremendous work ethic and a tremendous drive, determination and second effort. So that resonates with his teammates and has the ability to carry over to their game. Guys see him doing that work and putting in that effort and it becomes infectious in the locker room and you start seeing the younger guys doing the same," he said.
With his early success and the increased expectations that come with it, Gaudette's name has been mentioned not only as a Hobey Baker candidate as the best men's collegiate hockey player, but also as a potential Olympian for Team USA in PyeongChang. While he appreciates being part of both conversations, that decision is ultimately out of his hands and his focus is solely with the Huskies.
"I just want to keep playing the best I can. I know the points will come and I'll be helping my team win and achieve our goals. That's what matters most to me," he said. "We have a lot of goals here in this locker room - to win the Beanpot, to win Hockey East and ultimately win a National Championship - but we have to stay focused on the now and take things day-by-day, game-by-game, week-by-week and do what we can to give ourselves a chance to reach those goals."