When the Calgary Flames selected Johnny Gaudreau 104th overall in the 2011 Draft, they had no idea how big of an impact he would make in the NHL. Listed generously at 5’-9” and 175 pounds, the 2018 version of Gaudreau is, if you can believe it, bigger, and stronger than the one who slipped on a Flames sweater for the first time over seven years ago.

All 30 NHL GMs at the time incorrectly evaluated Gaudreau, and while the Flames lucked out on selecting him in the fourth round, he should have been taken much, much higher. In fact, he probably should have been taken over 100 spots higher, close to first overall like he did in this NHL.com redraft. He’s a special talent, one that is worth the price of admission and one that is hard to find comparables for in the league right now. His soft hands, incredible vision, and brilliant playmaking ability are a throwback to another small (former) Flames player, recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Martin St. Louis. The Flames didn’t wait to see St. Louis turn into the superstar he eventually became as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they’ll enjoy Gaudreau’s magic for at least another five years in a Flames jersey.

There was no doubt that Gaudreau would be a player in the NHL after he was drafted. He piled up goals and points for Boston College in the NCAA, eventually earning him a Hobey Baker award in 2014. He was a clutch player throughout his junior career, hitting a new gear in big games including the Beanpot tournament where he earned MVP honors in 2012, and the World Juniors where he won a gold medal in 2013. Gaudreau has earned NHL All-star status in every single year of his young career, and won the Lady Byng Memorial trophy in 2017. He has already cemented his place in hockey history, and is just starting to make his mark.

Last season saw Gaudreau amass 60 assists and 84 points, tied for 7th and 16th league-wide respectively, both career highs for the talented winger. What is interesting about his totals, is that of the six players ahead of him in the assists race, three were centers and three were right wingers; none played left wing. In terms of points, only three of the 15 players ahead of him played left wing. Gaudreau might not be challenging for the title of best player in the NHL – at least yet – he is definitely in the discussion for the title of best left winger in the game.

League-wide, Alex Ovechkin, Jamie Benn, Brad Marchand, Artemi Panarin and Taylor Hall join Gaudreau in the group of the top left wingers in the game, with Jonathan Huberdeau making a strong case to be in the conversation after a fantastic 2017-18 season. However, among this set of players, Gaudreau might be the most underrated of them all, despite having a trophy cabinet filled to the brim with awards earned since he was in high school.

Pace and Possession

In terms of driving team offense, Gaudreau ranks highly amongst his peers in Corsi, scoring chances, high danger chances, and on ice goals scored. All ranks in the table below are taken from statistics at all situations from the 2017-18 season, giving an edge to those players who are effective on the powerplay.

Statistic

Gaudreau

Ovechkin Marchand Benn Hall Huberdeau Panarin

CF

2

3

17

5

11

4

1

CF%

6

10

11

31

19

12

4

GF

6

1

5

2

3

7

8

GF%

24

10

6

17

4

29

3

SCF

1

3

10

5

8

4

2

SCF%

5

17

15

18

16

7

13

HDCF

1

5

24

4

7

9

11

HDCF%

5

34

45

4

12

26

31

Average Rank

6.3 10.4 16.6 10.8 10.0 12.3

9.1

In terms of pace and possession related statistics, Gaudreau ranks first with the best average rank, but quite a bit. It’s clear that he isn’t the best at most things, only ranking first in two of the eight statistics, but he is consistently among the top six, save for GF%. Marchand’s elite defensive abilities are on full display here, as he ranks sixth overall in GF%, but is much lower ranked on high danger chances. Panarin’s position is interesting, as he is second in average rank. He is in the top 13 in every stat except for HDCF%, leading to the assumption that his line doesn’t convert grade-A opportunities into goals as efficiently as it could. Huberdeau is definitely the most surprising, with an average rank that surpasses Marchand.

Raw Offense

Gaudreau is definitely not on the same level in terms of goal scoring as some of the players on this list. His career high of 30 goals pales in comparison to Ovechkin’s 65, Benn’s 41, and Hall and Marchand’s 39. However, Gaudreau is objectively the best playmaker on the list, leading with a career high of 60 assists. This play style is reflected when looking at raw offensive totals for the group of left wingers.

Statistic

Gaudreau

Ovechkin Marchand Benn Hall Huberdeau

Panarin

Goals

18

1 6 4 3 13

13

Total Assists

1

9

4

6

3

7

2

First Assists

2

13

6

21

4

7

1

Total Points

4

2

3

6

1

7

5

Shots

13

1

26

8

3

18

12

Average Rank

7.6

5.2

9.0

9.0

2.8

10.4

6.6

If it weren’t for his goal total being ranked 18th, Gaudreau would have been second in this set of statistics as well. It’s no secret that Ovechkin is the best goal scorer here; he’s among not only the best goal scorers in the league today, but in the entire history of the NHL. Benn and Hall join Ovechkin in the top five for goals. Marchand’s totals are interesting in that he ranked sixth overall in goals, but 26th in shots. He doesn’t even rank especially highly in SCF or HDCF, which leads to the inference that Marchand’s line is elite at finishing the opportunities they get. That’s not too hard to believe either, as Marchand plays primarily with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak to form what is likely the best line in hockey.

A true indicator of Gaudreau’s playmaking prowess is primary assists where he ranks second. Panarin ranks first, the only left winger in the league with more primary assists. Gaudreau ranks first in total assists though, and is amazingly fourth in total points, despite having the worst ranking goals total by five. Hall was clearly the best overall raw numbers producer last season, ranking in the top four in each category for an average rank of 2.8. Gaudreau is fourth on the list with an average rank of 7.6.

Overall

This isn’t a perfect metric, but taking an average rank of all the above statistics, Gaudreau outperforms every left winger in the set. With an average ranking of 6.8, he is followed most closely by Hall at 7.2, Panarin at 8.2, and Ovechkin at 8.4. It might be a bit premature to say that Gaudreau is the best left winger in the game, especially with players who have Rocket Richards, Art Ross’, and Hart trophies stacked in their own trophy cabinets. But, at the end of the day, there’s no doubting his impressive application for the title.

All Statistics

Gaudreau

Ovechkin

Marchand

Benn

Hall

Huberdeau

Panarin

Overall Rank

6.8

8.4

13.7

10.1

7.2

11.5

8.2

It’s incredible just on its own to say that Gaudreau is even in the same conversation as some of the great players on this list. He’s evolved from a tiny college kid to one of the best players in the world, and the Flames are lucky to have a player of Gaudreau’s calibre on their team for the foreseeable future. The Flames haven’t started off the 2018-19 season the way they hoped to, but there is plenty of time left to climb up the standings, a climb made easier with Gaudreau steering the ship.

Advertisements

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s