When: After the NHL’s three-day Christmas break, the Avalanche hosts Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames on Tuesday in the first meeting of the season between the former division rivals.
What’s up: Despite missing 10 games because of a broken finger, the 5-foot-9, 157pound Gaudreau was leading the Flames in scoring entering the weekend. “Johnny Hockey” underwent finger surgery and was scheduled to miss four to six weeks but returned in less than three. His return began with four consecutive multipoint games. He has 11 points in eight games overall, with the Flames going 6-2 over that stretch.
Background: Gaudreau is from Salem, N.J., and before playing three years for Boston College, he won the United States Hockey League (junior-A) championship with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who were coached by current University of Denver coach Jim Montgomery. Gaudreau was just 17 that season but scored 36 goals in 60 games. He scored another 36 goals in 40 games to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player in 2013-14, the year BC eliminated DU in the first round of the Johnny Gaudreau NCAA Tournament.
Because of his small stature, Gaudreau wasn’t selected by an NHL team until the fourth round in 2011, by Calgary.
Chambers’ take: Gaudreau is the NHL’s next Pavel Datsyuk, a left-shooting magician with the puck, and his size and 14-year-old facial appearance make him a fascinating player to follow. For opponents, he’s extremely elusive, which is why he has been relatively durable. He missed just five games in his first two full NHL seasons. The Flames recognize his value and awarded Gaudreau a six-year, $40.5 million contract ($6.75 million cap hit) just before the season.