Saturday, April 6, is shaping up to be a very exciting day for local goaltender Ben Gaudreau.
His team, the North Bay AAA Major Midget Trappers, are planning to be playing in the Ontario Hockey Federation Central Region Championship which begins April 1st. In the midst of preparing for one of the biggest games of his life, Gaudreau will also be paying close attention to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) priority draft, where experts are predicting he will be selected in the early rounds.
To say that’s a lot of pressure for the 15-year old Scollard Hall student is an understatement. Thankfully for Gaudreau, he seems to have embraced the calm, cool and collected demeanor of his goaltending idol, Carey Price.
“I’m happy that I can just focus on playing hockey and put the draft at the back of my mind,” said Gaudreau. “The semi-final is at noon, and the draft starts at nine in the morning, so I’ll watch for a bit and then hopefully just get ready to play. If I’m drafted before I leave for the game, that’s great, but I’m not going to let it interfere with my preparation.”
In the lead up to the draft, Gaudreau will be backstopping his second-ranked Trappers team in round-robin play throughout the preceding week. Winning the Central Region earns the Trappers a berth in the Telus Cup in Thunder Bay, April 22 – 28.
Since Gaudreau is a minor-age player playing on the major team, many of his teammates have already experienced the excitement, and stress of hoping to be selected in the OHL draft.
“My teammates have been a great support. They joke around with me a lot, if there’s any news articles about me, they’ll have some fun with it. Getting to see a few guys go in the draft last year was pretty cool, you get to kind of go through that experience with them, which is helpful. Their advice is basically ‘don’t sit in front of the computer watching the draft all day’. I’ve played with these guys for many years, I couldn’t ask for better guys to play with. We’re like brothers,” he said.
The website Prospect Pipeline, expects Gaudreau to be one of the first goaltenders selected in the draft.
“Ultimately, Gaudreau has the skill-set and abilities necessary to become a star goaltender at the next-level. Of impressive size, strength, and innate abilities within his crease, Gaudreau stands as an intimidating presence in-goal who affords his opposition with virtually no opportunities to do damage on a game-by-game basis.”, reads the Prospect Pipeline profile on Gaudreau.
The friendly and polite Gaudreau is also eager to give credit to those who have helped him improve his game over the years, including goalie coaches Todd Robillard and Matt Smith, as well as his agent, Eddie Mio, who set up a series of sessions for the young goalie with former NHL goalie Manny Legace.
“My coach, Guy Blanchard, has helped me out a lot. He’s a great supporter and has always been in my corner. Right now, his message is basically, 'focus on the games, don’t worry about the draft,' which is obviously the right approach.”
Blanchard speaks highly of his young netminder as well.
“Ben is a very focussed player,” said Blanchard. “He is going to worry about our team. The OHL draft will not be a distraction for him, he is going to go out and play his game. In the long run, the draft will not impact him one bit. He is a gamer, he wants to play, he wants to win and he is going to come out and do what he needs to do.”
“My parents have been incredibly supportive start to finish, and it’s been a big investment for them," said Gaudreau. They’ve definitely put their work into my hockey career, now it’s up to me to take the next step. My mom is really excited, while my dad is a bit more mellow, whatever happens, happens is his attitude.”
Growing up, Gaudreau played all sorts of different sports - tennis, volleyball, basketball, baseball, track and soccer - only focusing on hockey in the last year.
“All of those sports helped my goaltending,” he said. “Tennis and racquet sports are especially good for improving hand-eye coordination, soccer helps with explosiveness. All those different sports help in different ways. Plus they keep you from getting bored with one sport.”
With his focus squarely on the championship games at hand, the draft remains on Gaudreau’s mind, though he remains modest in his expectations.
“Obviously I want to get drafted and hope to be a high pick, but there’s not too much you can really hope for. You have to stay realistic. I just hope I go to the right team where I can fit in and make a difference and help them win,” he said.The OHL Priority Selection draft takes place on April 6. You can follow it here.