It was a whirlwind weekend for Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold. On Thursday night, their college careers came to an end after a disappointing loss to Union. On Friday, Gaudreau won the Hobey Baker Award, and both he and Arnold inked pro contracts with the Flames. It all wrapped up last night when Gaudreau and Arnold made their NHL debuts for Calgary.
In the first period, Gaudreau and Arnold skated on the same line, Calgary's third unit alongside Paul Byron, and both looked comfortable and impressive. The line put in seven solid even strength shifts, and Gaudreau saw some additional time on the Flames' second power play unit. Gaudreau ended the period with 6:18 of ice time, one shot, a takeaway, and a number of slick moves and nifty passes that drew praise and got the attention of Calgary's coaching staff. As our friend Joe Meloni pointed out, Gaudreau's corsi was 83.3% in the first period (meaning, 83.3% of all shots attempted while he was on the ice were Calgary shots. For you genius math majors out there, that means just 16.7% were Vancouver shots. #HotSportsTakes)
Gaudreau performed well enough in the first period that he was moved up to Calgary's first line to start the second. While Gaudreau's playing time was limited in the second period due to the Flames spending 25% of it killing off a major penalty, he delivered with his first NHL goal, redirecting home a Joe Colborne shot at 15:22 of the second period to make the score at the time 4-1 Vancouver.
GIF of the goal
omg he's short
Video of the goal.
Gaudreau's first career goal came off Canucks' goalie Jacob Markstrom, in case you want to store that nugget away for a future game of Trivial Pursuit.
In the third period, Bill Arnold asserted himself nicely as well, and nearly scored a goal of his own on a two on one, but missed the net. However, he ultimately ended up with a very good day, logging 13:35 of ice time, throwing a hit, winning 56% of his faceoffs, and going -1, which isn't too bad considering his team got smoked 5-1 (get used to this if you're going to be jumping on the Flames bandwagon next year).
Gaudreau ended up with 15:11 of ice time, including 1:31 of power play time, his goal, a +1 on the night, and with his team attempting 57.9% of the shots with him on the ice (he was one of only four Flames players over 50% in this category).
In the end, it was an exciting night for BC fans and for Flames fans, who saw glimmers of hope from their new rookie players in a 5-1 loss that ended an otherwise forgettable season.
As for what's next - I assumed that Gaudreau and Arnold would end up being assigned to AHL Abbotsford for their playoff run, but it turns out I was wrong about that; the AHL has a rule that players signed after the trade deadline can not play in the postseason. So Gaudreau and Arnold will head back to campus after a crazy weekend to finish up their spring semesters and get ready to prepare for next season.
This is 100% speculation on my part, but I have to imagine there's a decent chance Gaudreau is on the radar to be selected for the US team in the IIHF World Championships, which start in early May. Stay tuned. Between that possibility, and the numerous Eagles gearing up for the NHL playoffs, we can pass some of the long wait between now and when BC hockey returns to the ice this October.
Congratulations to the BC guys on a strong NHL debut.