The Toronto Maple Leafs continued their free agency additions on Wednesday by signing a depth forward in Adam Gaudette.
Gaudette, who will turn 26 in October, is a still-young forward who has struggled to effectively contribute in the NHL after an acclaimed NCAA career. This past season for the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks, Gaudette scored five goals and nine assists for 14 points, appearing in 58 games across the two clubs. Gaudette can play both center and right wing and has typically played small 10-12 minute per night roles in the NHL up to this point.
Gaudette, a native of Braintree, Massachusetts, stayed in the Boston area for his collegiate days after suiting up for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the USHL. Gaudette was drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks and then enrolled at Northeastern University in the fall of that year, playing three seasons for the Huskies. As a junior, he was the best player in college hockey, scoring 30 goals and 30 assists for 60 points in 38 games en route to the Hobey Baker Award.
Gaudette drove what was the best line in college hockey that season, featuring himself, Dylan Sikura, and Nolan Stevens. Combined with Montreal Canadiens goalie Cayden Primeau in net, Northeastern was a formidable squad in 2017-18, but they were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Hockey Tournament by a Michigan Wolverines team that featured Josh Norris and Quinn Hughes. Immediately after the season ended, Gaudette signed with the Canucks.
Gaudette spent part of 2018-19 with the Utica Comets of the AHL, but he played most of the season in Vancouver, scoring 12 points in 56 games. The underlying numbers were very rough, though, and Gaudette played just under 11 minutes per night on average.
The next season (2019-20) was his best; he played nearly the entire season in the NHL and tallied 33 points in 59 games. His play-driving numbers perked up a bit and he received a sizable opportunity on the PP, where Gaudette scored 12 of his 33 points (and the analytical impacts with the man-advantage were also good). Unfortunately, he was largely silent in the Canucks’ 10 playoff games in the bubble, and things have been trending downhill from there.
Gaudette struggled in 2020-21 with only seven points in 33 games for Vancouver before a trade to Chicago at the trade deadline for fellow young forward Matthew Highmore. He closed the season alright in a small trial for Chicago, but this past season was more of the same. Gaudette was unable to impact play at either end for Chicago and was dealt to Ottawa, where it was mostly a similar story. He did tally six goals and eight points in 10 games while representing Team USA at the World Championships this past May.
In total, we have a player who has never consistently played above fourth-line minutes in the NHL and has only been offensively productive on the power play. Gaudette has scored at a 26-points per 82 games pace in the NHL and is a strong skater, but he does not contribute anything obvious in the way of defense or physicality. While he’s able to play center, he’s always been in the low 40s in faceoff percentage throughout his career.
It would appear that Gaudette is a signing to provide veteran depth that can play down the middle and is a little younger and faster than both Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford. Both are signed for this coming season, but it’s unclear what their roles might be on the big club in 2022-23; the Leafs are looking for a Marlie or two to graduate and they also just added Nicolas Aube-Kubel to their fourth-line mix.
At the league minimum of $750,000 and as a projected 13th forward who may spend more time with the Marlies than the Leafs, there’s nothing wrong with this signing. He has not been consistently effective in the NHL, but Gaudette is younger, could give them stretches of competent-enough 4C or 4RW minutes, and should have more in the tank than the veteran Simmonds or Clifford if he is needed.
You can perhaps draw some comparisons between the Gaudette signing and Jimmy Vesey in 2020-21 — two struggling young players who were acclaimed at the NCAA level (both won the Hobey Baker) but haven’t caught on in the NHL to any notable level. It didn’t work out for Vesey, ultimately, but that’s the sort of profile you’re looking at with Gaudette.
Adam Gaudette RAPM
Adam Gaudette Statistics