Gaudreau’s elite talent display has Flames brass excited, but not surprised
Weisbrod chats with the Herald about how all of Calgary’s prospects have done at World Juniors
John Weisbrod certainly doesn’t mean to come off as ho-hum.
Getting him to rave — yet again — about Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau is easy, sure.
But Weisbrod, the Flames’ assistant general manager, is hardly shocked by the wee winger’s performance at the world junior hockey championship. Even if Gaudreau has erupted for seven goals in the past three outings for the Americans.
“Johnny is a known entity to us,” Weisbrod, chuckling, said Thursday afternoon. “We know how good this guy is. We know what he’s capable of. I’ve been thrilled — especially after him getting cut last year and knowing how much that hurt him — that he’s been able to have so much personal success and, to this point, team success.
“In a lot of ways, it’ll serve to boost his confidence even further that he can play on that stage. So it’s been a great experience for Johnny. But it’s not new learning for us to see that he’s capable of those things.
“You keep seeing him take the next step and the next step and the next step. It’s obviously gratifying, but once you get to know the kid . . . I can’t say it’s super surprising.”
Gaudreau scorched Team Canada with two goals in Thursday’s 5-1 semifinal victory, giving him a tourney-high seven tallies.
“Those are the kind of guys that succeed,” Weisbrod said of the Carneys Point, N.J., native. “You take a guy with high skill, high hockey sense, then put it in a human being that loves the game to death . . . these are the kind of results you get.”
Now a star sophomore at Boston College, Gaudreau had been selected with the 104th overall pick in 2011. He’d been great in BC’s run to the NCAA championship last year — and even better this year.
“We’re thrilled,” said Weisbrod, “but nothing this guy does will shock me anymore. Johnny is Johnny — we know what to expect from him.”
Gaudreau, of course, isn’t the only Flames commodity in Ufa, Russia.
Here’s a rundown on the others:
* Finnish C Markus Granlund (nine points in five games, drafted 45th in 2011)
Weisbrod had been looking forward to seeing Granlund, a regular in the Finnish men’s league. “It’s tough to scout the youngest kid in a pro league and get a real good assessment.”
Against his peers, Granlund thrived. Only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with 11, has registered more points.
“His game has grown and matured steadily since the draft,” said Weisbrod. “Style-wise, he’s similar in a lot of ways to Johnny Gaudreau. He’s not a big guy, not a physically overpowering guy, not a real open-ice skater in terms of speed. They’re both guys that rely on quickness and hockey sense and hand skill and creativity and the ability to do things with the puck.”
* Canadian D Tyler Wotherspoon (two points in five games, drafted 57th in 2011)
“This is a first-time experience, sort of rare air for him, in terms of playing on one of those elite teams in an elite tournament,” said Weisbrod. “He obviously played in big games and went deep into the playoffs with Portland (of the Western Hockey League). He’s shown well in those environments, but this is a whole other animal. For him to get this opportunity, from a confidence standpoint . . . realizing that he’s in that group and deemed one of the best players to make that team in the first place.”
* American D Patrick Sieloff (zero points in five games, drafted 42nd in 2012)
Team USA’s roster was not short on grittiness, but the Ann Arbor, Mich., native, an old-school basher, still made the grade.
“I think they took a guy like him because he’s so unique as a competitor,” said Weisbrod. “His physical commitment is so over the top, it’s tough to not want a guy like that on your team. The degree to which they used him in any given game, in any given situation, was sort of icing on the cake for me. He’s progressing very nicely.”
* American G Jon Gillies (no goals-against in 20 minutes, drafted 75th in 2012)
“He’s gotten what he’s earned,” Weisbrod said of the 18-year-old. “He had such a great start to his freshman year in (NCAA) Providence and turned so many heads that he was able to get himself into that (national-team) mix. It’s clear that he has immense, immense physical ability — to be six-foot-five and have the athleticism that he has . . . and the physical skill for the art of goaltending, which he has in spades.”
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