I want to be one of the top rookies in the league and as the team's playing well and we're playing well, we're in the playoff race, everything seems to be going our way right now. - Johnny Gaudreau
CALGARY -- Johnny Gaudreau jumped into a class of his own and joined some prestigious company at the same time.
Thanks in part to a goal and two assists to help pace the Calgary Flames to a 4-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday, the 21-year-old Gaudreau moved ahead of Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg and into sole possession of the rookie-scoring race with 56 points.
“It’s exciting,” Gaudreau said. “I didn’t think I would be here at the end of last season. I didn’t think I’d be here right now. I’m really fortunate to get to play with [Jiri Hudler] this year. He’s really helping me out a lot.
“The playoffs are obviously a lot more important than that right now. If our team keeps playing well, I keep playing well, hopefully we make the playoffs here.”
Gaudreau's most recent effort certainly helped that cause.
With a win over the Flyers, Calgary jumped ahead of the Los Angeles Kings and back into third place in the Pacific Division. The Flames sit just one point back of the Vancouver Canucks for second, too. Both the Kings and Canucks hold one game at hand over Calgary.
In terms of the two wild card entries into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, the Flames are one point back of the Winnipeg Jets and trail the Minnesota Wild by two.
And while the Calgary’s playoff aspirations may dwarf the importance of the 5-foot-9, 150-pound Gaudreau hitting the 20-goal plateau as a freshman, it doesn’t soften the significance.
Gaudreau, who left Boston College last April to turn pro and join Calgary, is the first Hobey Baker Award winner to net 20 goals in his rookie season in the NHL since Chris Drury accomplished the feat with the Colorado Avalanche in 1998-99.
Behind the bench in Drury’s rookie campaign? Current Flames coach Bob Hartley.
“[Gaudreau] just keeps getting better and I think we're far from seeing the end of it,” Hartley said. “He has this ability to get open, he's very skilled and he wants to learn and is a great competitor. You put all of this together, you have quite a player.”
After earning the Hobey Baker in 2014, Gaudreau has eyes on netting the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 2015.
But his primary focus is reaching the playoffs.
“I want to be one of the top rookies in the league and as the team's playing well and we're playing well, we're in the playoff race, everything seems to be going our way right now,” Gaudreau said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.
“That was one of our really important games. It's our last seven-game segment and we need to push for at least nine, 10 points out of it. We're excited to keep it going.”