I just about a week ago dropped my brother off at his dorm, helped him move in, and saw my whole senior class. It was definitely a little different from the past few summers going into school but it’s a good change. - Johnny Gaudreau
CALGARY, AB -- For a fourth consecutive summer, Johnny Gaudreau drove off to Boston College, unpacked a car and filled a dorm room.
For the first time in those four years, though, it wasn’t his dorm.
Helping brother Matthew prepare for his freshman season with the Eagles, Gaudreau made one final trip to his old stomping grounds before darting to Calgary in advance of the Young Stars Classic.
“I just about a week ago dropped my brother off at his dorm, helped him move in, and saw my whole senior class,” Gaudreau said. “It was definitely a little different from the past few summers going into school but it’s a good change.”
A change Gaudreau has waited for.
While the Carney’s Point, NJ native has returned to school each of the three years following his selection 104th overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Gaudreau guaranteed his arrival to Flames camp by signing an entry-level pact with the Flames last spring.
The contract came just in time for Gaudreau’s NHL debut (and first NHL goal), a 5-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks to put a wrap on the 2013-14 schedule.
It’s been a long time coming for the 21-year-old.
“It was exciting to be a Flames prospect for the past three, four years but I’m extremely excited to be a part of the Flames and the whole organization and go to rookie camp and then training camp,” Gaudreau said. “It’s finally here. It’s been three, four years since I’ve been able to do something like this. I’m pretty excited about it.
“Playing against a whole bunch of other rookies that are parts of other organizations (is exciting). It’s exciting to play against players that you grew up playing against and now they’re playing for their respective teams. It’s a pretty fun tournament to play in from what I hear.”
It’s in Gaudreau’s NHL debut -- a skate that featured 15:11 of ice time -- that gives the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner his greatest advantage heading into the Young Stars Classic.
“I feel a little bit more comfortable since I got that first game in and got to meet the whole team that first game,” said Gaudreau, who recorded 36 goals and 80 points in 40 games at Boston College. “I knew a whole bunch of the prospects throughout the four or five years of development camp. I feel pretty comfortable right now getting that first game in me.”
It doesn’t hurt who he’ll have alongside him in Penticton, too.
Gaudreau spent time at the Flames’ development camp this summer with Sam Bennett, Calgary’s top pick (No. 4) in the 2014 NHL Draft.
It can be expected that the two could be reunited at some point when the Flames face prospects of the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers this weekend.
“I think most players would be excited to play with a player like (Bennett),” Gaudreau said. “He’s a great guy off the ice and that just makes it even more enjoyable to play with a player like that. I’m really excited to get the chance to play on the team with him and a few other guys as well in the organization.”
Bennett’s chemistry with Gaudreau wasn’t surprising. The 18-year-old Kingston Frontenacs forward recorded 36 goals and 91 points in 57 Ontario Hockey League games in 2013-14.
He, like Gaudreau, will be participating in his first rookie camp, too.
But unlike his teammate, the Young Stars Classic will serve as the first time Bennett has draped on the Flames jersey in game competition.
“It's definitely exciting,” Bennett said. “It's what I'm looking forward to, the first time throwing on the Flames jersey to play on the ice. When you get to play against the biggest rivals for the Flames, it's going to be exciting games.
“It's going to be a great experience to play against all the young players that are eventually going to be the stars of the league.”