South Jersey's Gaudreau wins Hobey Baker Award

Posted: April 14, 2014

IN THE HOURS that followed Boston College's season-ending loss, Johnny Gaudreau sat with his parents, Guy and Jane, in their South Jersey home to hash out the big decision. They listed pros and cons. They discussed differences between the college and professional levels. They talked about the increased pressure that comes along with the NHL.

All conversations ceased around 3 a.m. yesterday. A verdict was reached.

"He really wanted to go," his father said.

Gaudreau, the ultra-skilled 20-year-old from Carneys Point, N.J., yesterday signed a contract with the Calgary Flames, forgoing his senior season at Boston College. The 5-8, 155-pound left wing will play in the Flames' season finale tomorrow at Vancouver. He and his parents were set to fly from Philadelphia to Calgary on a team-chartered jet last night, right after Gaudreau was presented with this year's Hobey Baker Award, given to the nation's top player.

"It was extremely special," Gaudreau said in a ballroom of the Loews Hotel at 12th and Market, where the Hobey Baker ceremony was held. "It's special if you win it wherever, but close to home, I've got a lot of family and friends here, so it's been a pretty memorable experience."

A fourth-round draft pick in 2011, Gaudreau signed a 3-year entry-level two-way contract with a base salary of $832,500, a yearly signing bonus of $92,500 plus performance-based incentives. His appearance in tomorrow's game will count as the first year of the 3-year deal, so he will start next season on Year 2, according to his father, Guy.

Bill Arnold, Gaudreau's linemate at Boston College, also signed with Calgary. He and his family were set to take the same eight-person jet to Calgary, where the players would obtain their working visas. Gaudreau and Arnold would then fly to Vancouver with the team this afternoon.

Although the players' signings weren't announced until yesterday evening, Gaudreau actually signed his contract at 9 a.m. yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton. The family decided to keep it quiet out of respect for the Hobey Baker Foundation and last night's ceremony.

"He's ready for the challenge," Guy Gaudreau said. "He's ready to step up. That's what he wants to do. That's what he's always wanted in his life."

Gaudreau, who will wear No. 53 for Calgary, capped a fantastic collegiate career with a goal and two assists in Thursday's 5-4 national-semifinal loss to Union College at the Wells Fargo Center. Despite his early departure from BC, Gaudreau and his parents have mapped out a plan for him to earn his college degree the summer after next hockey season.

"It's been a special year," his proud father said. "He's done some amazing things."

By the time hockey-crazed die-hards from the Midwest and Northeast convened here this week for Philadelphia's first Frozen Four, Gaudreau had already ensured his claim to hockey's Heisman Trophy. Thirty-six goals, 44 assists and another trip to the Frozen Four left no doubt.

Fifteen points separated him from the next-best point-getter, Kevin Hayes, who just happened to be his linemate. St. Lawrence's Greg Carey's 57 points ranked third. He was one of the other two Hobey Baker finalists. The other, St. Cloud State's Nic Dowd, tallied exactly half Gaudreau's point total, a testament to the BC star's greatness.

"He's a special player," longtime Boston College coach Jerry York said. "[Thursday] night, he almost tied the thing up at the end."

A year ago, Gaudreau was one of three Hobey Hat Trick finalists, but lost out to St. Cloud State's Drew LeBlanc, now in the Chicago Blackhawks' system. It was more than appropriate, though, that this year's trophy belonged to Gaudreau. Just across the Delaware River, less than 20 miles away in Sewell, N.J., stands Hollydell Ice Arena, where, 18 years ago, a young Gaudreau could be found on skates, his father baiting him across the ice with Skittles.

Gaudreau attended Gloucester Catholic High School for 3 years before moving for his senior year to Iowa, where he played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints, of the United States Hockey League. The league's rookie of the year, he led his team to a championship, because, of course he did.

Throughout his hockey career, Gaudreau has overcome his lack of size with speed, elusiveness, great stickhandling ability and, most of all, a deft scoring touch. His amateur career culminated in the Hobey Baker Award, but his resumé is one filled with achievements. There's also the 2011 Clark Cup, the 2012 NCAA championship and the gold medal from last year's World Juniors in Ufa, Russia. But now, 4 months from his 21st birthday, Johnny Hockey takes his talents to the NHL, the ultimate goal from Day 1.

On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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