The brevity of the World Junior Championship somewhat mimics the intensity of a best-of-seven playoff series, except every game is against a different team. Needing to capture some lightning in a bottle for success, it helps to have players that have had a lot of experience playing in must-win games.
Team USA has several players like that, but perhaps none have had as big a stage as forward John Gaudreau. The Carneys Point, N.J., native has been part of championship teams in each of his last two seasons, most recently with Boston College.
Gaudreau scored a highlight-reel goal that ended up icing a 3-1 victory over Ferris State in last year’s NCAA national championship game. Just a year prior, Gaudreau led the Dubuque Fighting Saints to the United States Hockey League’s Clark Cup, notching 11 points in 11 postseason contests.
He has a knack for coming through in the big games. But while that big-game experience helps, Gaudreau isn’t leaning too much on it.
“[The World Juniors is] such a big tournament, I don’t know what to expect,” Gaudreau said. “I’ve never played in a tournament like this. Playing in [the USHL playoffs and NCAA tournament] definitely gives me a little experience.”
Gaudreau is currently one of the nation’s leading scorers in college hockey, with 23 points in 14 games for Boston College. He is hopeful his regular-season success will translate to World Junior success for Team USA.
“I just want to help the team,” said the BC sophomore. “Hopefully I get some scoring chances and put us on the board. We have such a talented group here throughout the whole four lines. Hopefully I can get on the scoresheet a couple times for this team and play really well in the defensive zone and keeping the puck out of our net and helping out offensively.”
Gaudreau began the tournament on a line with J.T. Miller and Rocco Grimaldi. Both Grimaldi and Gaudreau share some similar characteristics, such as quickness and good puck skills, but it seems everyone wants to ask them the same question.
“I asked him if he got interviewed yet,” Grimaldi said. “Did all they ask you about is your size? He laughed and said, ‘Yeah’ and I said, ‘Me too.’ It’s the same ridiculous question over and over. I don’t know how many times I can answer it, but it’s pretty funny.”
Grimaldi comes in at 5-foot-6, while Gaudreau measures at 5-foot-7. Though they get asked about their size constantly, it’s what they can do with the puck on their stick that gets people talking after seeing them play.
Gaudreau has enjoyed playing with Grimaldi so far.
“Playing with a player like that, it’s not hard to build chemistry,” Gaudreau explained. “He’s talented, fast. He puts the puck on your tape every single pass. It’s exciting to play with a player that’s so talented like him.”
Gaudreau, who is used to playing on the smaller North American ice sheets in most of his college games, thinks his skills should be put to good use on the wider surface at the WJC.
“I think the bigger ice will be to my advantage because of how quick and shifty I am down low,” he said. “Our team is pretty fast this year. The bigger ice, we can take teams wide with our speed and that will be a huge factor with our team.”
Gaudreau’s only other international experience came two years ago at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka, so the highly-skilled forward is hoping to make the most of the WJC.
“I think this is an experience I’ll remember the rest of my life so hopefully I cherish the whole trip,” he said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.