Johnny has been a star everywhere that he’s been but sometimes one of the easiest excuses for a coaching staff to let a kid go is, 'You’re too small.' Johnny is the proof. He’s big enough to play in the NHL. He lets his talent and his performance speak for itself. - Bob Hartley
CHICAGO, IL -- Johnny Gaudreau has been hearing the same refrain all his life.
"You're too small."
Without taking into consideration the skill and speed the Carneys Point, NJ native possesses, critics have cast him aside time and time again due to his diminutive frame.
But the 22-year-old has never allowed the opinions of others to negatively impact his performance on the ice. He took their dismissals as a challenge.
“I think all my life I’ve had that problem, being the smaller guy and playing against bigger guys," he said after the Flames morning skate in Chicago. "For me, I try to put that in the back of my mind, not listen to people and just try to prove them wrong."
And prove them wrong he has. Tonight, Gaudreau will suit up for his 100th NHL game.
"It’s exciting," he said of the milestone game. "It was a fun year last year. The start of this year has been a little shaky for our team but it’s been fun playing with this group of guys and fun playing in here tonight."
While he doesn't hear much about his size nowadays, there is the still odd comment here and there. It doesn't bother him -- it isn't like he hasn't heard the same criticisms before -- but he does hope that his ability to thrive in the NHL offers up the same kind of inspiration as Danny Briere and Martin St. Louis did for for him when he was growing up.
"You still hear it every once in a while," he shrugged. "I’m sure there’s a lot of younger kids growing up right now that have that same problem. You’ve just got to make sure you don’t listen to them and just play your game and have fun, I think.
"I was in their shoes I don’t know how long ago, people telling you you can’t do it. Thankfully I proved them wrong and hopefully those guys can too."
For younger, small players, there is plenty to be drawn from Gaudreau's game.
With 82 points in 99 games, he is the highest scoring Flame at a 100-game mark since Sergei Makarov, who had 107 points in his first 100 skates in the NHL and earned the Calder Trophy in his rookie season as a 31-year-old. Gaudreau was a finalist for the award last season thanks to a 64-point rookie season.
This year, he is leading the Flames in scoring with 17 points in 18 appearances.
"At his size, I think Johnny is a great example for all young hockey players, more importantly small-sized hockey players that are being cut at the Midget level, the high school level, the junior level. Never quit." Bob Hartley said.
"Johnny has been a star everywhere that he’s been but sometimes one of the easiest excuses for a coaching staff to let a kid go is, 'You’re too small.' Johnny is the proof. He’s big enough to play in the NHL. He lets his talent and his performance speak for itself."