NASHVILLE – It didn’t take long for Frederick Gaudreau to make history in his young NHL career. The 24-year-old Nashville Predators forward scored yet again in the 2017 Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins and added his name to the record books.
Gaudreau’s goal early in the second period came via a wrap around that looked at first like it was denied highlight-reel style by Matt Murray before video review confirmed the puck had crossed the line. With that tally he joined John Harms of the 1943-44 Chicago Blackhawks as the only players in league history to score their first three career NHL goals in the Cup Final.
With rosters expanded in the playoffs and only so many stalls available inside the Predators’ dressing room at Bridgestone Arena, Gaudreau has been forced to change in a chair in the middle of the room.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) June 4, 2017
So now with three goals under his belt, two of which have been of the game-winning variety, the question must be asked: Has Gaudreau earned himself a stall?
Predators head coach Peter Laviolette sounded like he wants the superstition to continue. “I stay out of that stuff. It’s working for him.”
Meanwhile, defenseman Ryan Ellis apparently isn’t satisfied with Freddy Hockey’s three goals in four games. “He’s probably going to have to score a couple more then we’ll probably give him one.”
But in the end, the final decision will likely rest on the shoulders of captain Mike Fisher, who gave a glimmer of hope that Gaudreau could find himself with a little more space soon. “We’ll see what we can do. I don’t know. We’ll see if we can squeeze him in somewhere.”
Ask Gaudreau and, well, frankly he doesn’t care.
“I could be sitting on the floor and I would take it,” he said after Nashville’s 4-1 victory in Game 4. “I’m just happy to be here. I don’t really care about the stall, to be honest.”
If you looked at Gaudreau’s road to the NHL, you would understand why the location of where he gets dressed would be the least of his concerns.
Undrafted out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Gaudreau signed his first professional contract with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2014. His strong play there, along with a good performance during a 14-game loan in the ECHL earned the Quebec native another year in the AHL.
It was that second season in Milwaukee where Gaudreau would open eyes. Midway through a campaign that would see him record 15 goals and 42 points in 75 games, he signed an entry-level deal with the Predators. He was given a shot in training camp this past September, but again found himself in the AHL, still working to get his NHL opportunity.
Gaudreau would get his first NHL chance in October during a game against the Penguins. He’d get eight more shots over the following two and a half months before getting sent back to Milwaukee where he would find himself waiting again to get the call.
When injuries struck the Predators lineup during this playoff run, Gaudreau was summoned, this time in the middle of the Western Conference Final against the Anaheim Ducks. He was in the lineup to fill a hole, and since then he’s earned a regular spot and the trust of his teammates and head coach Peter Laviolette.
“That’s a credit to him. When you start the way he did, having to work for everything, literally every contract and every opportunity, improve yourself. At this level, it’s no different. That’s on him,” Laviolette said. “There’s a lot of people that have helped along the way in his development, from his coaches in juniors to our coaches in the minor leagues to our development coaches that help him from summer to summer. But I think that speaks to Freddy, to be honest with you. To be able to take the road that he has, come out on the end, be a contributing player in the Stanley Cup Finals.”
Not everyone can be a first-round pick who immediately jumps to the NHL and contributes. For every Sidney Crosby there are dozens of Frederick Gaudreaus, many of whom never get the opportunity to make a difference at the highest level.
All of those years of developing his game in the minors are now paying off for Gaudreau as he cements his place in the Predators’ lineup.
“He’s been unbelievable for us, the way he’s come in,” Fisher said. “He’s been so good. Timely goals, composed. He definitely belongs, and he’s been a huge part of our success.”
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