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LEADING THE CHARGE

Glenn Gawdin's stellar season has led the Broncos to a WHL Championship and a trip to the Memorial Cup

by TORIE PETERSON @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

REGINA - There are certain players who can elevate an entire team through a distinctive blend of individual skill and leadership abilities.

They are players that are able to pick their teammates up and push them through challenges, creating opportunities for their squad and flipping the momentum of the game in their favour.

They are few and far between and when a team is fortunate to have a player of this calibre, they can carry them to a championship.

For Swift Current Broncos head coach Manny Viveiros, Glenn Gawdin is one of these unique few.

"It was a special year, a real special year," Viveiros said of his captain. "I've only been involved with Swift Current for a couple of years here but from what I've seen, from where's come from last year when he got healthy … towards the end of the season and what he's done this year … he's our guy.

"He makes everybody go on our hockey team. When things aren't going well, when we have a so-called mini-slump, he's usually the guy that brings us out of it."

Gawdin's final year in the Western Hockey League was one for the ages, both individually and for the Broncos.

The Richmond, B.C., native posted a career-high 56 goals, 125 points through 67 regular-season games, which ranked him second in the WHL scoring race. He more than doubled his previous career-highs in goals and points and he also set new benchmarks in powerplay goals (21), shots (270) and points-per-game average (1.87).

He has made tremendous strides in his two-way play, as well, becoming one of the Broncos' most dependable forwards in all three zones. He's developed into a top penalty-killer, is strong on the backcheck and is highly efficient on transition.

In the face-off circle, he won 58% of his 1,713 draws in the regular season and took 55% of his 600 attempts in the playoffs.

No matter the obstacle, Gawdin was able to carry his club throughout the course of the year. When the Broncos lost his linemates Aleksi Heponiemi and Tyler Steenbergen to the IIHF World Junior Championship in December, Gawdin continued to pour on the offence. From Dec. 10 through Jan. 12, the centre put up eight goals and 19 points.

In the playoffs, the Broncos faced elimination on two occasions: in their first-round series vs. Regina and in their second-round match-up vs. Moose Jaw. Both times, Gawdin was able to push the Broncos through. In Game 7 against the Pats, Gawdin was named the first star after he scored the game-winner and put up two points. He followed that up with another massive Game 7 performance, with two goals and four points against the Warriors.

Gawdin played a key role in the Broncos' WHL Championship victory, registering seven points in the six-game series against Everett. When the series was tied 1-1, he scored all three goals in a 3-2 Game 3 victory, effectively turning the tide in Swift Current's favour.

He capped off the series by being named the first star in the Broncos' 3-0 victory in Game 6, earning them their first league title since 1993.

Video: BREAKING DOWN GAWDIN

"The productivity on the ice and the infectious leadership he has within that group, for me, was phenomenal," Flames amateur scout Darren Kruger told CalgaryFlames.com.

"He had a great playoff (run) this year, he had a great year in general. He's really improved and is a solid two-way player which at the pro level, I think, is really going to help him."

The Broncos struggled in their first two games at the 2018 Memorial Cup, falling 4-3 in overtime to Acadie-Bathurst and dropping a 2-1 decision to Hamilton, but even in the midst of those challenges, Gawdin nearly willed his club to victories in both of those outings.

He was particularly dangerous in the setback to Hamilton, a match-up which saw the Broncos give up an uncharacteristic 56 shots on net and play an undisciplined brand of hockey.

"He almost did it (against Hamilton), a couple of situations. He did an incredible job on that 3-on-5 penalty kill and then he had a couple of looks where he could have scored," Viveiros recalled. "Two minutes left, he has a real good look in front and he made a good shot and hit the post."

The 21-year-old will be making the transition to the pro ranks in the fall, likely joining the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League to get his first taste of playing against men.

There is often a steep learning curve for players coming from junior, no matter how dominant they were with their Canadian Hockey League clubs, but Gawdin has shown he has been able to rise to the occasion at every level. 

"He just has to continue to grow and get stronger," Kruger assessed. "It's a different ball game now, when you're done juniors and you're heading into the pro level. He's got to continue to gain confidence and gain strength in his off-ice activities.

"He's got to keep moving forward, keep developing his game overall."

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