The Calgary Flames gave the Stockton Heat an injection of Western Hockey League talent this season. 2017-18 WHL players Matthew Phillips, Dillon Dube, Nick Schneider, Juuso Valimaki, and Glenn Gawdin all made appearances with the Heat at various times this season.
We’ve already covered all of them with exception of Gawdin, today’s subject. How has the breakout player of last year’s WHL season fared in his rookie AHL go-around?
When we last checked in
Having been left out of St. Louis’ plans moving forward (they couldn’t fit him on their shared AHL team), Gawdin went undrafted in his second draft despite a decent junior career and being big enough (6’1, 190) for the NHL. He did get an invite to Flames development camp, but couldn’t secure a contract and returned to the WHL.
It was a blessing in disguise, as the right shooting centre suddenly reinvented himself as one of the WHL’s best players. Centring Aleksi Heponiemi and Tyler Steenbergen, Gawdin helped lead Swift Current to a WHL title and a Memorial Cup berth, picking up 125 points and the WHL playoff MVP title along the way. The Flames kept tabs on him and signed him halfway through the year before anyone else could lay a hand on him.
There were certainly some reasonable doubts about his newfound success. Gawdin was a 20 year old playing against teenagers and had two highly regarded talents besides him. With a contract in hand, he would have a chance to prove himself in the pros.
Gawdin was always going to play a whole season of Stockton hockey, barring an absolute disaster with the Flames’ centre depth. He was going to be slotted behind veterans Alan Quine, Tyler Graovac, and Curtis Lazar, so it would be tough to find ice time.
Despite mostly playing bottom six minutes, Gawdin made the most of his time. He proved to be a stout addition to the Stockton power play, picking up a lot of points on the man advantage. He also displayed similar prowess on the penalty kill, chipping in shorthanded too.
Numbers & Growth
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Gawdin was never going to carry over his ludicrous production from his WHL days, but he still put together a really solid rookie season. Over half a point per game is nothing to gloss over for a rookie coming straight out of the CHL, and puts him in good position to grow upon that next season. His strength still lies in generating primary points, as he kept a pretty consistent primary points to points ratio (this year- 73%, last year- 74%).
Where he still struggles is offence at 5v5. Last year, you could wash away that concern because Swift Current needed him to be everything to the team. This year, Stockton could only find use for him on special teams. If you compare Gawdin to occasional linemate Matty Phillips, they both had similar statlines (64-11-27-38 for Gawdin, 65-13-25-38 for Phillips), but Phillips made his mark at 5v5, outscoring Gawdin at 5v5 by 11 points (27 vs 16) and more than doubling his 5v5 primary points totals (24 vs 11). Generally, good grades in those categories tend to be more indicative of an NHL future.
If Gawdin’s numbers indicate that he’s at best a fourth liner with special teams utility, that’s still a very good outcome from a free asset.
Looking at 21 year olds who put up similar statlines since the AHL reformed in 2005-06, it seems to indicate that Gawdin is mostly likely destined for a bottom six role in the NHL.
Similar players have jumped to the NHL at a 31% rate, scoring an average of 0.33 PPG (27 points over 82 games). Those numbers mostly remain in line with the data from his WHL career, which generally capped him between the 0.3-0.4 PPG marks, though with lower odds of him actually making the NHL. This season puts him a bit closer to becoming an NHL regular, but without much more upside.
There are players like Andreas Athanasiou, Philip Danault, and Chris Krieder who had middling AHL campaigns as 21 year olds and became pretty good NHLers at the next level, but they’re rare. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Gawdin develops this way, but it’s not the most likely outcome.
He’ll be back in Stockton again, where he should hopefully build off a strong rookie campaign.
There will be some extra challenges this time. Sharpshooting prospect Adam Ruzicka is looking to establish himself as the top line centre, and sparkplug Martin Pospisil can also play the pivot position too. Free agent signing Byron Froese could also challenge for a job, ditto Luke Philp. Alan Quine figures to be the Flames’ extra forward, but he could also make appearances down below if things should come to that.
It’s going to be crowded down the middle for Stockton, and Gawdin’s imperative is to keep himself in the conversation. With only a year left on his contract, he’s in definite make-or-break territory. Even just establishing himself as a cheap depth option would be enough to keep the Flames interested in a second contract, but he will have to make the most of his sophomore season.
Dillon Dube | Matthew Phillips | Tyler Parsons | Adam Ollas Mattson & Rinat Valiev | Josh Healey & Andrew Nielsen | ECHLers | Martin Pospisil | Emilio Pettersen | Demetrios Koumontzis | Dmitry Zavgorodniy | Adam Ruzicka | Milos Roman | D’Artagnan Joly | Eetu Tuulola | Linus Lindstrom | Filip Sveningsson | Pavel Karnukhov, Rushan Rafikov, Mitchell Mattson