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Gaudreau set to build off strong rookie campaign

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

CALGARY, AB -- Twenty-four goals. Sixty-four points. One Calder Trophy nomination.

But what’s Johnny Gaudreau do for an encore?

Hopefully, suggests the sophomore, progression.

And avoid that dreaded, often talked about, second-year slump.

“I’m excited,” Gaudreau said. “I need to approach it the same way I did last year. Coming in as a younger guy, you’ve got to show up and play well to try and make a team that a lot of guys have been playing for for a while in this league. I have to try and keep that in the back of my mind. Try to put that season behind me and focus on the new season.”

Seems simple enough.

“He’s going to have a lot of confidence now,” said Sean Monahan, linemate and expert in all things sophomore after bucking the same plague last year. “Coming into his first year last year he didn’t know what to expect out of himself and he ended up being a big part of this team and playing a big role. This year he’s going to be a big part and play a lot of minutes. He’s going to do a good job for us.”

The sophomore jinx has yet to catch up to the pint-sized forward.

Though rarely has Gaudreau stuck at the same level to have it chase him down.

At the under-16 level with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers of the AYHL, he recorded 16 goals and 45 points in just 30 games. The next year, graduating to the under-18 ranks in the T1EHL, Gaudreau had 29 goals and 29 assists in 48 skates. In the same year with Gloucester Catholic High, who retired his No. 3 jersey last spring, another 48 points went up on the board in 14 games. That journey elevated with a stop in Dubuque with the Fighting Saints of the USHL, where the Salem, NJ native scored 36 goals and was named the league’s top rookie.

Then came Boston College, and his first taste of the same level through multiple seasons.

His freshman year: 21 goals, 44 points in 44 games. Hockey East All-Rookie Team and Tournament MVP.

His sophomore year: 21 goals, 51 points in 35 games. Hockey East First All-American Team, First Team All-Star, and Hobey Baker Award finalist.

His junior year, and final season at Boston College: 36 goals, 80 points in 40 games. Hockey East First All-American Team, Player of the Year, Hobey Baker Award winner.

Constant progression.

“That second year, I told myself, ‘Just because you had a good season last year, it’s not going to be the same, you’ve got to work just as hard and it’s not going to come easy,’” Gaudreau said. “This summer I’ve worked out really hard and I’m coming into training camp thinking the same way I did in college.”

It worked in college. Why not in the National Hockey League?

Monahan, who saw his numbers spike during his own sophomore adventure last season, has a theory, of sorts.

“I don’t believe in that sophomore thing,” said Monahan, who saw his goal total jump by nine to 31, and point total inflate from 34 to 62 in his second year in the NHL. “Johnny’s a good player and every year if you’re a good player, you’re going to find a way to get better. I think he’s going to have a big year, that’s what we expect from him, and that’s what he’s going to expect from himself.”

Ditto, doubled-up Gaudreau.

“I know for me, I don’t need to think of that kind of stuff,” the 5-foot-9, 163-pound winger said. “For me, I got to watch Monahan last year and he had no problem dealing with it. I probably don’t believe in it either. You’re capable of playing the way you think you should be playing. If you’re not playing well, you’re going to have a slump whether it’s your second year or your 10th year. If you’re not going to put the work effort in, you’re not going to play as well.”

He’ll tell you he has.

Which doesn’t bode well for that sophomore slump.

“I had a great season last year, a really memorable one,” Gaudreau said. “A special season there. I just put that in the back of my mind and I’m just trying to have another good year here and we’ll see what happens after that.”

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