When Adam Gaudette joined the Chicago Blackhawks at he NHL Trade Deadline, the sense was that he had a higher offensive upside than Matthew Highmore and room to grow his game, whereas Highmore had pretty much topped-out what he could be at the NHL level.
He was coming off the NHL’s COVID protocol list as the Vancouver Canucks dealt with the biggest outbreak any team in the league had seen this season. Rumors swirled around the Canucks that Gaudette was “patient zero” for the P.1 variant outbreak and that is what led to him being traded to the Blackhawks.
Gaudette says he has a good relationship with everyone back in Vancouver and that the speculation is all baseless.
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 30, 2021
For Gaudette, coming to the Blackhawks offered him a chance to show what he can do at the NHL level to a set of fresh eyes. To see if he could use it as a springboard to another opportunity, or if he could impress the Blackhawks brass enough to offer him a contract this offseason.
A restricted free agent this summer, Gaudette has one goal and one assist in two games with Chicago this season and nine points in 35 games total for the 2021 season.
Gaudette was the 2018 NCAA Hobey Baker Award winner as the Most Outstanding Player of the Year. He won the award alongside former Blackhawks draft pick Dylan Sikura at Northeastern before making his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks at the end of the 2017-18 season.
In his NHL career, Gaudette has skated in 155 games with 22 goals and 54 points, setting career-highs in goals (12), assists (21), and points (33) during the 2019-20 season in Vancouver. Canucks general manager Jim Benning said of Gaudette after the trade, “We felt like it was time for a change of scenery. To be quite honest, we expected him to take another step this year. We didn’t feel like he did that.”
There could be a myriad of reasons why Gaudette, and many other athletes at the professional and amateur ranks this season, are not having seasons like they expected, but the most likely being the presence and threat of COVID-19. That’s why this year’s NHL Draft is going to be such a crapshoot – evaluating kids who barely played or played after having COVID or didn’t even have a season at all, is going to be a job I am glad I am not tasked with.
For Gaudette, his 2021 season has had enough to worry about before even thinking about his performance on the ice.
Gaudette has changed his diet — no added sugars, very little red meat, lots of vegetables — and was able to put on 10 pounds this season after dealing with the stomach issues "for years."
— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 30, 2021
Without hearing the quote in full from Gaudette, I can only imagine he means has been dealing with the aforementioned stomach issues for years and has been throwing up and not being able to eat or take care of his body properly FOR YEARS. I think that would make it hard to be at peak condition for everyone, including a professional hockey player.
The good thing for Gaudette and his health is that he has found a way to take care of it and get himself in better shape and be back to 100%.
— Blackhawks Talk (@NBCSBlackhawks) April 30, 2021
At 24-years-old and on an expiring deal, Gaudette has an opportunity with a young and focused-on-the-future Blackhawks club that could use an offensive threat who can play multiple roles around the lineup.
He’s played just a combined 18:23 minutes with Chicago, but already has a point in each game in which he’s skated. While the Blackhawks are not likely going to give Gaudette special teams time over the final six games of the season (they’re saving that for the more locked-in young players) he has been making the most of his time at even-strength since coming to Chicago.
In his two games, Gaudette at 5v5 has an Expected Goals-For per 60-minutes of 2.24, which is fourth on the team for regular, active roster players behind Pius Suter, Dylan Strome, and Vinnie Hinostroza. He also leads the team among regular, active roster players at 5v5 Scoring Chances-For per 60-minutes at 29.59.
It’s obviously the smallest a sample size could be for a player on a new team, but that’s all the Blackhawks can go off of in his time playing the Jeremy Colliton system with these Blackhawks teammates. There are a lot of young players in the mix, especially in the forwards group, for the Blackhawks and there are only so many spots open for competition, but if the Blackhawks wanted to roll the dice on a fresh, healthy Gaudette for next season, I would have no problem with it.