I’m strictly going back to school to improve my game, not to wait out the years to try and sign with someone else. - Johnny Gaudreau
PITTSBURGH, PA -- When Boston College's season came to a close on Mar. 13 in the NCAA East Regional, Johnny Gaudreau knew he had a decision awaiting him.
Stay another year in Massachusetts and try to help the Eagles capture a second NCAA Championship in three years or turn pro.
Both options had their advantages. In addition to having another opportunity to win the NCAA Championship, the Carneys Point, NJ product is considered a frontrunner for the 2014 Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation's top college player. He was in the 2013 Hobey Baker Hat Trick, which is extremely impressive given he was a sophomore and his fellow finalsts, Drew LeBlanc (St. Cloud) and Eric Hartzell (Quinnipiac), were seniors. If he played his junior year with the Eagles, he would once again be one of the team's top forwards and would likely end up deep in the Hobey Baker race once again.
However, turning pro would fast-track his career. He would have the opportunity to crack an NHL roster in the fall and if he didn't make the team out of camp, he likely would have been placed in a top-six role with the Flames AHL affiliate, the Abbotsford Heat.
In the end, Gaudreau chose another year with the Eagles.
"I think it will really help my development, to have another year at BC," the 19 year-old told CalgaryFlames.com. "We have such a great coaching staff here and another year with them will definitely help me when I make the jump to pro."
Another year in Boston will give the winger time to put more muscle on his 5-foot-6 frame. Gaudreau's size obviously hasn't hindered him at the collegiate level but he knows he will be facing bigger, more skilled competition at the pro level and wants to be prepared for that.
"Getting stronger and bigger is important so I've been putting a lot of emphasis on that," he said. "Working out, diet ... it is all important."
Gaudreau will also welcome a very familiar face to the Eagles roster next year; his brother Matt will be joining the team after spending the last two years with the Omaha Lancers in the USHL. The two have played together before, suiting up for the Gloucester Catholic Rams over three years ago and leading the team to the 2010 NJSIAA/Devils Non-Public boy’s ice hockey championship.
"To have the chance to play with again him is great," Gaudreau smiled. "Matt's a really good player and will be a great addition to the team.
"Our whole freshman class is extremely good. We'll be a younger team this year for sure but all of these guys coming in are so talented. I'm excited for next season."
The Flames are content with Gaudreau's choice as General Manager Jay Feaster stating the team wouldn't push any collegiate player to leave school early. The organization feels that choice needs to lay in the hands of the player, their family and their family adviser so that the individual doesn't feel rushed into a pro career before they're fully ready.
"The Flames, they've been so supportive of me," Gaudreau said. "Ever since I was drafted, they've been there for me and I really appreciate all of their support."
After the situation between Justin Schultz and the Anaheim Ducks, some fans have expressed concerns about Gaudreau opting not to sign with the Flames after his collegiate career is finished but that isn't something that the organization is worried about.
"I know that’s what the fans worry about," Flames General Manager Jay Feaster told the media on Thursday. "I’m not concerned that he’s going to college as a ruse for ‘I don’t want to be play in Calgary.’ That’s not the case.
"We’ve had enough conversations with Johnny and his family, with his family adviser, that I’m not concerned about that."
Gaudreau himself shrugged off any rumors indicating he isn't interested in playing in Calgary.
"I’m strictly going back to school to improve my game, not to wait out the years to try and sign with someone else."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally filed after the conclusion of the Frozen Four but has been edited with recent quotes from Feaster and Gaudreau.