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Gaudreau honoured to be a part of Team North America

by Evan Sporer / Calgary Flames

TORONTO, ON -- Of the 22 players who traveled with the United States to Canada to compete in the World Junior Championship in 2012, four were also selected as members of Team North America for the 2016 World Cup. Two Canadian skaters also were selected for both tournament teams.

But of those 22 Americans from 2012, left off was forward Johnny Gaudreau who, at the time, was in the midst of a standout freshman season at Boston College, during which he recorded 21 goals and 23 assists.

Fast-forward five years and eight months, and there's no questioning Gaudreau's status among his peers in his age group, or even across the NHL.

"If I look back on my career, I probably would say I'd never be here," Gaudreau said. "It was not the typical road to the NHL, but I'm really fortunate I had a lot of help from a lot of people."

Those teams Gaudreau did not make fueled his NHL dreams. His story — an undersized, typecast, 5-foot-9 forward, selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Draft — has helped craft the player he is.

His latest accomplishment, being chosen to represent Team North America in the 2016 World Cup, is another affirmation of Gaudreau's place and prestige, and how far he's come.

"Fortunately, I had a lot of great coaches and great teammates that pushed me and helped me get to where I am today," Gaudreau said. "It's going to be a really, really cool experience. It's not every day you get to play in the World Cup so I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm sure a lot of these guys are."

While his running mate and good friend Sean Monahan, an original selection for Team North America, is recovering from a back injury, Gaudreau has found new linemates, another cue into his standing.

The left wing found himself playing beside Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in Team North America's final exhibition game, the NHL's next wunderkinds who have taken notice of Gaudreau.

Eichel has been watching Gaudreau for years. He played at Boston University, rival to Gaudreau's alma mater Boston College, but was recruited heavily by both schools.

Gaudreau started the tournament on a line another former college hockey standout in Dylan Larkin, and Eichel.

"He's a tremendous player," Eichel said. "He didn't win the Hobey Baker for no reason, and he didn't have the successful college career that he did for no reason.

"He's a special player, and really exciting. He can do a lot of things that can open your eyes. It's been great to play with him, and hang out with him. He's someone who I really enjoy being around."

With the talent Team North America has, there really aren't any bad linemates to have, according to Gaudreau.

"I said in the beginning of the pre-tournament that you could put everyone's name in a hat, pull two names out, and I'd be excited to play with anyone you pulled out there," Gaudreau said. "That's what's cool to be a part of this team."

QUOTABLES

"Sean is a good friend, and a good teammate. Unfortunately he couldn't be here; hurt his back. He could have helped us out a lot, unfortunately. It's good for Calgary that he's getting the rest and getting more prepared for the rest of the season." - Gaudreau on Monahan missing the World Cup

"No, he's a good guy. We give each other a hard time sometimes. We both talk about how great it was, and what a great experience it was for us to get the chance to go to college, and meet a lot of friends, and play college hockey. It was a lot of fun." - Gaudreau on the Boston College vs. Boston University rivalry with Eichel

"Johnny is a great player. Obviously I got the opportunity to watch him for a couple of years when he was at BC. Before I committed to BU I was still going through that recruiting process, so I got to watch him a good amount when he was there. He's a tremendous player ... He can do a lot of things that can open your eyes. It's been great to play with him, and hang out with him. He's someone who I really enjoy being around." - Eichel on Gaudreau

"It was great getting to play with those two guys. You have to work and keep your feet moving; they play fast. It's been great. If you asked me a year ago if I'd have the opportunity to play with them in a tournament like this, I wouldn't believe you. But now that it's here, it's been awesome, and those are two great players. Like he said though, you could pick anybody out of a hat on this team, and I'd be pretty excited. That says a lot about the guys in the room." - Eichel on having Gaudreau and McDavid as linemates

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