Johnny Gaudreau is officially going to Belarus.
The 20-year-old played his first professional game in the Flames‘ season finale, playing over 15 minutes and scoring his first goal. Due to his contract, he is unable to join the Abbotsford Heat as a black ace for their playoff run. Instead, he’ll be suiting up for his country.
Gaudreau last played for Team USA two World Junior Championships ago, scoring seven goals and nine points in seven games as he helped the Americans to capture their first gold since 2010. He was named to the all-star team as well.
There's been a lot of hype surrounding Gaudreau, this year's Hobey Baker winner, as he scored 36 goals and 80 points in 40 games in his third year of college hockey. It's great that he'll continue to play at a high level at Worlds, and has likely just given Flames fans reason to watch the Americans.
The Flames are well-represented at this year’s World Championships, as in addition to Gaudreau, other noted rookie Sean Monahan will be playing for Team Canada. Monahan never got to play for Canada in the World Juniors – he was in the NHL this season, and was passed over during the lockout year the year before – so this will be his first time representing his country since he played in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in 2011. He had two goals and three points in five games as he helped Canada win gold.
Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie would have joined him if they were healthy. The Flames’ top defence pairing broke out this year, setting career highs in points, and garnering a lot of attention for Giordano as an Olympic injury replacement and potential Norris finalist.
Joining Gaudreau and Monahan is another Flames breakout, Mikael Backlund. Though he missed the final few games of the year with a hand injury, Backlund will be suiting up for Team Sweden. He was named to Team Sweden’s Worlds roster last year, but couldn’t play due to injury. Sweden won gold last year.
Finally, after being snubbed for the Olympics, Jiri Hudler will be playing for the Czechs. Hudler represented his home country last worlds and was one of the Czechs’ leading scorers, putting up four goals and five points in eight games.
by Ari Yanover