April 11, 2014

Boston College's Gaudreau wins Hobey Baker Award

By Andrew Merritt

Johnny Gaudreau's final act as a Boston College Eagle was to accept the Hobey Baker trophy as the nation's top college player, in a ceremony held on Friday night in Philadelphia. (Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal)

PHILADELPHIA – Johnny, meet Hobey. Hobey, meet Johnny.

A year after being passed over, Johnny Gaudreau was announced as the winner of the 2014 Hobey Baker Award on Friday night, capping off an incredible season and a three-year college career that officially ended shortly before he received the award.

Gaudreau, who signed with the Calgary Flames roughly an hour before the ceremony began at the Loews Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, became the first Boston College player to win the award since Mike Mottau in 2000 after a season that begged for a unanimous vote.

It was also a bittersweet moment for Gaudreau, who was hoping to be playing down the road at the Wells Fargo Center in Saturday night's national championship game.

"It's tough to win this and not be playing with my team tomorrow night," he said. "The guys were here supporting me, and I wish I could've done a little bit more to get them there."

Gaudreau's season was not only the best of any player this year, but the best by a college player in some time. His 80 points (36 goals, 44 assists) was better than the next-best in the country, teammate Kevin Hayes, by 15. His assist total alone would have made him 15th on the nationwide points list. Not since Peter Sejna's 82 points in 2003 has a college player eclipsed the 80-point mark, and it's only happened three other times in the last 18 years.

When the Eagles lost to Notre Dame on March 16, Gaudreau failed to score for the first time in 31 games. During that stretch, which began with the sixth game of the season, he collected 29 goals and 32 points. That 31-game period alone would have put him second in points in the country, behind Hayes.

Gaudreau did have some help. Hayes had a breakout senior season, scoring 27 goals and 38 assists while playing on the opposite wing from Gaudreau. The line's center, Bill Arnold (Needham, Mass.), finished with 14 goals and 39 assists. All three players had career highs in points in 2013-14.

Since they were put together on a line beginning with the Eagles' Dec. 6, 2013, game against New Hampshire (a 6-2 win), the trio combined for 54 goals and 80 assists over the final 26 games of the year.

"It's been a memorable experience playing with those two guys," said Gaudreau, who joined Arnold on a plane to Vancouver, as both players signed with the Flames Friday and were scheduled to play the Canucks Sunday night. "Kevin Hayes is a great, great player, offensively and defensively. Bill Arnold is one of the better players I've ever gotten the chance to play with, offensively and defensively, and those two guys have been great friends off the ice.

"I'm excited to see how well they're going to do at the next level."

As for Gaudreau, the big question about how he'll do at the next level revolves around his size. While he was able to use his speed and cunning against the larger bodies in the college ranks, the NHL is a different animal altogether.

That said, players like Brian Gionta and Nathan Gerbe have proven that you can be small and have success at the next level. It just helps if you happen to come from BC.

"Coach always had great connections with those guys, and those smaller guys, I just try to listen to what they're saying and use their advice wisely," Gaudreau said.

Twitter: @A_Merritt
Email: amerritt@hockeyjournal.com