By Bobby Kirschenbaum
“Johnny Football”? An immature, backup quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in the NFL. “Johnny Hockey”? Unarguably the best Rookie in the NHL. Johnny Gaudreau is a left winger for the Calgary Flames in the NHL, and even at just age 21, Johnny has shown poise and versatility, that of a Captain and MVP-like player. He is just 5’9 but has the willpower, speed and strength to intimidate opponents as if he was a 7 footer. There is no doubt this Calgary Flames team would be nowhere close to where it currently stands without Johnny. Through the first 76 games, he has 22 goals and 38 assists. In addition, he has 4 game winning goals and a +8 overall rating on-ice.
Currently, the Calgary Flames hold the 7 seed in the competitive and talented Western Conference. They are fighting alongside the Jets, Kings, Sharks and Stars for the last two seeds. In order for this team to go far, Johnny will truly have to take control and give it all he’s got. On March 30th, the Flames had a crucial must-win game against the Dallas Stars, both in pursuit of the highly anticipated NHL playoffs. It was a sold out crowd at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, as both sides looked to prove their skills and worthiness for the playoffs. While the game went back and forth in scoring, and the crowd shouted for their home team, Johnny slowly but surely silenced the electric crowd. He finished with 1 assist, a +2 rating, and the game-winning goal with 3:36 left in the second period, en route to a 5-3 victory for the Flames. With those two crucial points, the Flames are just a couple points away from clinching a playoff spot, their first since the 2008-09 season.
Now, many might argue that Johnny had a fluke season and will never put up numbers even close to what he did this year. But is he the real deal? Well, many NHL analysts and coaches around the league say he is the next Sergei Makarov, the best player in Calgary Flames history, who won the Calder Memorial trophy in his rookie season. Currently, Johnny is the favorite to bring home the incredible award, as well. He has a shot like Ovechkin, speed like Carl Hagelin, determination like P.K. Subban, and the leadership of Jonathan Toews.
Johnny has been in the league for less than one full season and has already proven how bright his future looks for the next few years. Recently, he was named Rookie of the Month in March, his second time this year as he did the same in December. In March, Johnny had 7 goals and 9 assists through 15 games. In addition, he was also nominated last summer for an ESPY for “Best Male College Athlete”. Although Doug McDermott won the award, it is an incredible accomplishment to be nominated. However, he did win the Hobey Baker award.
Prior to the NHL, Johnny played three seasons at Boston College, one of the best Hockey schools in the Country. Last year, during his junior season, starting on Nov. 1, he managed to string together a point streak for 31 games that matched the NCAA Hockey record set by former star, Paul Kariya, during the 1992-93 season. Throughout the entire junior season, Johnny had been held off the scoring sheet only twice, once in October and once in March. In 40 total games played, Johnny accrued 36 goals and 44 assists, averaging an NCAA-best 2.00 points per game. These 80 total points were 3 points shy of a Boston College school record.
While the Flames currently hold the 7 seed in the West, they will only go as far as Johnny carries him. Whether Calgary hoists the Cup, or if they get swept first round, they have nothing to fear, as Johnny Hockey is here to stay and carry this team in the near future. And for this week, Athlete on the Rise goes to Johnny Gaudreau.