GLENDALE – Coyotes prospects Max Domi and Henrik Samuelsson recently completed impressive junior hockey seasons that featured eye-popping offensive stats and various post-season honors. Without question, all eyes will be on the team’s past two first-round draft picks at next month’s Prospect Development Camp and then later at training camp in September.
But those in the know also will be closely watching 21-year-old prospect Tyler Gaudet, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound center who quietly posted a very solid season playing for Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League.
|Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. |
“He seems to be a player who is starting to figure out who he is and what he needs to do to be a player in the NHL,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “We think he has a real good chance of cracking our opening day roster if he has a good summer and gets himself a little stronger and a little quicker.”
Those are powerful words and Gaudet, whom the Coyotes signed to a three-year contract in November, is focused on seizing that opportunity.
“My ultimate goal is to make the Arizona Coyotes so I’m taking the necessary steps to be at my physical peak,” Gaudet said. “There’s work to be done and I’m taking it very seriously. I’m training a lot this summer and I want to be the best player I’ve ever been when camp starts.”
While Domi and Samuelsson are known for their offense, Gaudet, who wasn't drafted by the OHL and was twice passed over in two NHL Entry Drafts, turns heads with his defense; OHL coaches voted him the Western Conference’s best defensive forward, best penalty-killer and most improved player for 2013-14.
“I like to play the role of a two-way forward covering 200 feet of the ice and making an impact in every single zone with my work ethic,” said Gaudet, who notched 26 goals and 35 assists and was a plus-25 in 65 games this season.
After Sault Ste. Marie was bumped from the OHL playoffs, the Coyotes invited Gaudet to Arizona so he could practice with the team for a few days and get a better feel for the organization, the facilities, the staff and the area. Then, after the Coyotes season ended, he reported to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine, and played a few games there.
Those experiences served him well.
“It was disappointing when our season ended in the playoffs, but for me it was exciting to get the opportunity to go right to Phoenix and experience what it would be like to be in that (locker) room and to meet all the players and staff,” Gaudet said. “It was an incredible privilege and experience I won’t ever forget.”
He added, “Shane Doan is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met and it was easy to see why he is such a good leader. All of the other guys on the team were so approachable, too. Just being in that room with guys you look up to was cool, and it motivates you to push yourself to be there with them and emulate them.”
Gaudet grew up in Hamilton, Ontario and began playing hockey around age five. His mom, Sandra, was a basketball coach who wanted him to play hoops. He opted for hockey instead. He started out as a defenseman and credits that for his solid two-way game.
“His size, his game instincts and his understanding of the game is what attracted us to him,” Maloney said. “He had a real strong season and made a real nice impression at Portland at the end of the year, and he fits the need in regards to a big center who is good defensively. The issue I have is we’ve never seen him in a pro training camp. So, how does his game from last year translate going forward against men? That’s the intriguing part. We shall see. If the development curve he’s on continues, we’ve got something really good here. We’re excited about him. We like how far he has come.”