Gaudreau is leading the league in goals with 36 and is second in points with 70. He has helped Dubuque, a first-year expansion team, clinch first place in the Western Conference of the USHL, a junior league featuring mostly 17- to 19-year-olds who have committed to play Division I collegiate ice hockey.
"I can't say enough good things about him," said Dubuque coach Jim Montgomery, a former NHL player who spent two seasons with the Flyers. "He has skill, and he has will. When you combine those two things, that's when you have a special hockey player."
Like most USHL players, Gaudreau lives with a host family. He attends Dubuque High School as a senior with seven of his teammates.
"It's a public school, so I get to wear whatever I want," said Gaudreau, who spent his first three years at Gloucester Catholic.
If Dubuque is eliminated from the playoffs in the early rounds, Gaudreau said, he hopes to return to Gloucester Catholic and graduate with his old classmates. But if the Fighting Saints, who have a 36-12 record and are tied for second in the league with 80 points, advance deep into the tournament in May, he might not have time.
Gaudreau is 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. That's small by USHL standards, but it's reflective of his growth in the last year. He was about 5-foot-6 and around 130 pounds during his junior season at Gloucester Catholic.
Gaudreau said he has heard doubts about his ability to compete because of his size his entire career.
"I try not to listen to it, but it does motivate me," Gaudreau said. "I try to use it in a positive way, like I want to show people that I can do it."
Gaudreau said he has worked hard to gain weight and improve his strength. He said his hosts, Mike and Erin Bierer, make sure he has plenty to eat.
"Mr. Bierer does the cooking, and he's always giving me extras because he knows I'm trying to gain weight," Gaudreau said.
Montgomery said Gaudreau has been a revelation in his ability to excel at his size.
"The thing that's really surprised me is how well he protects the puck," Montgomery said. "He's like [Chicago Blackhawks star] Patrick Kane. He's always going east to west, and he makes people miss so much they're always off balance."
Gaudreau was named USHL offensive player of the week for the second time this season on March 21. He collected seven points (four goals, three assists) that week to lead the Saints to three victories and a playoff berth.
Gaudreau also is second in the league in three-star points with 69, and has been named a first, second, or third star in a league-high 17 games.
"John scores a lot of goals in tough areas, close to the net," Montgomery said. "His timing and anticipation are impeccable."
Gaudreau is entering a crucial phase in his development. Next season, he will either return to Dubuque for a second season in the USHL or play at Northeastern University, a Division I program in Boston that has offered him a scholarship.
Gaudreau also is on the NHL watch list as a potential selection in the June draft. Any team that selects him would own his rights for four years.
Gloucester Catholic coach Guy Gaudreau, John's father, said officials from the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers have been to several of his son's games and expressed an interest in drafting him.
"It's every kid's dream to get drafted," Gaudreau said.
Montgomery believes that Gaudreau can reach the highest levels of the sport.
"I think John Gaudreau can play in the NHL," Montgomery said. "He has to get bigger and stronger, and he has to get with a coach and in a system that fits his style of play. But he has the skill and the will to climb the ladder."
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223