I’ve had the chance to put on that jersey two or three times already and every time is pretty special. Representing your country and when you put that jersey on, you get pretty excited about the whole idea of playing for your country. - Johnny Gaudreau
CALGARY, AB -- Johnny Gaudreau isn’t ready to call it a season just yet.
The reigning Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner will represent Team USA at the 2014 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Minsk, Belarus from May 9-25.
“It means a lot,” said Gaudreau, Calgary’s fourth round pick (No. 104) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. “I’ve had the chance to put on that jersey two or three times already and every time is pretty special. Representing your country and when you put that jersey on, you get pretty excited about the whole idea of playing for your country and playing against other countries in international tournaments.
“I was excited when I found out. I’m excited I get to come over there and play.”
The World Championship will mark the third time in the past four years Gaudreau has represented the United States on the international stage.
He helped his country earn gold at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, leading the tournament with seven goals in seven games en route to being named to the tournament’s all-star team. He also represented the Americans at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, recording two goals and four points to help Team USA to a silver finish.
Gaudreau admitted having that previous experience, albeit at a lower level of competition, helps.
“I think it definitely gives me an idea of how it plays going overseas and the bigger ice surface and things like that,” he said. “The guys I’ll be playing are a lot more talented and skilled than the guys I was playing against at other international levels but I’m excited for the challenge.”
Gaudreau’s invite to the World Championship extends a whirlwind season for the 5-foot-8, 155-pound forward.
He capped his collegiate career with Boston College by signing a three-year, entry-level deal with the Calgary Flames on April 11th -- the same day he captured the Hobey Baker as college hockey’s top player after recording 36 goals and 44 assists in 40 games.
His 80 points were the third-highest single-season total in the history of Boston College and the most of any college hockey player since Peter Sejna recorded 82 with Colorado College in 2002-03. He also tied Paul Kariya’s Hockey East record with points in 31-straight games.
The Salem, New Jersey native managed to skate in one game before the conclusion of the Flames 2013-14 schedule, recording his first NHL goal in 15:11 of ice time in his debut.
“It’s been a crazy few weeks here,” said Gaudreau, who has resumed classes in preparation for final exams at Boston College. “I lost the Frozen Four, that was pretty tough, but the next day I got the chance to win the Hobey Baker and get to sign with the Flames, then my first NHL game. It was a pretty emotional week and it was tough to try to handle everything. It was exciting. I had a blast.
“I was fortunate to have Bill Arnold by my side the whole time. It was a great week there.”
His NHL debut, Gaudreau admitted, will serve him well in making his first appearance at the Worlds.
“I think it definitely gives me a little bit more confidence,” Gaudreau said. “That first game I was a little nervous. They had (Pat Quinn’s ‘Ring of Honour’) ceremony in Vancouver and I never thought it was going to start. It felt like it was 45 minutes. I was just nervous the whole time on the bench.
"I got that first game out of the way in the NHL so hopefully that will help me down the way. Now I'm excited to go over and play in the tournament across the sea."
Gaudreau isn’t the only Flames property set to participate in the tournament. He’ll join teammates Sean Monahan (Canada), Mikael Backlund (Sweden) and Jiri Hudler (Czech Republic) in Belarus.
He looks forward to catching up with them at the tournament.
“I got to speak with a lot of those guys and got to play with a few of them,” Gaudreau said. “It will be good to see them out there. I’m sure they’ll do well. I know they’re on other teams but I hope they have good tournaments and hopefully I get to see them after and talk to them a little bit more.”