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Eyes On The Prize

By: George Johnson, CalgaryFlames.com

In making the Boyz II Men transition, junior to pro, all the stock clichés are only too true.

“It’s different,” concedes Glenn Gawdin. “It’s all different.

“It’s a faster, heavier game. There are things you can get away with in junior that you just can’t at the pro level. Less forgiving, I guess you could say.

“You expect it to be different from junior and it definitely was. Because we’d made such a good run in playoffs my last year of junior, I hadn’t been to Stockton at the end of the season to get a feel for how things worked.

“So when I did get there, everything was new.

“I think I took steps in the right direction. The progression is first taking a regular shift and playing more minutes.

“As a rookie coming in you get limited minutes at first and we were pretty deep offensively.

“So I kinda had to wait my turn.

“Things happen, there were injuries in Calgary, guys from our team went up, so you stay patient, work hard and wait for an opportunity.

“Mine arrived mid-season and I just tried to roll with it.

“For me, it was about taking face-offs and shutting guys down. Helping out offensively, too, but most of all trying to establish myself as that reliable centre, earning the coach’s trust.

“I think I had that trust by the end of the year.

“A good first year, for sure.”

Originally drafted in the fourth round (116th overall) by St. Louis at the 2015 draft held in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., Gawdin went unsigned by the Blues, leaving him free to sign with any team.

Calgary caught him on the rebound.

Two- and-a-half months after extending an invite to their main camp, he agreed to a three-year entry-level deal with the Flames on Nov. 16, 2017, and concluded his WHL career by racking up 125 points as an overage and propelling the Broncs to the 2018 Memorial Cup in Regina.

Over 64 starts his first foray into the play-for-pay level, the 21-year-old scored 11 times, produced 38 points, and finished all square in the plus-minus department.

Those numbers may not exactly sear themselves into the retina, but what’s intriguing from an advancement standpoint is the growing totality of Gawdin’s game (“That,” reckoned his coach at Swift Current, Manny Viveiros, now graduated himself, to an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers, “is going to be his ticket”).

“An interesting guy,” says Calgary GM Brad Treliving. “Last year was a short off-season for him because he had such a long run with Swift and was banged up coming out of that so he had to take some time to rehab rather than dive into his training right away.

“He worked for, and received, more and more responsibility as the year went on in Stockton. This is a smart, smart player. We really believe he has a chance to be an NHLer. It’s just a matter of when.

“An important summer for Glenn.”

To that end, Gawdin has made plans to parachute from his Vancouver home-base into Calgary to amp up off-season training.

“I thought he adjusted well,” adjudged Heat head coach Cail MacLean. “Similar to Matt Phillips, his overall hockey sense is really strong. As a result, Glenn found himself earning ice time in a variety of important situations as the year went on.

“He went from a position of initially having to gain the trust of coaches to being a fixture on our penalty-kill, on our powerplay and he took important draws as a centreman 5-on-5.

“For a first-year player that’s pretty exciting, to be put in that many important situations. Now, of course, the goal is to grow, to continue to develop.

“If we look at a guy on Year 2 of an entry-level contract who’s going to be a big part of what happens on this hockey team means our team’s got itself a pretty good player and the organization’s got itself a pretty good prospect.”

The influx of blue-chip recruits to either on-the-cusp or day-to-day status on the big club – Rasmus AnderssonJuuso ValimakiDillon Dube and Andrew Mangiapane popping immediately to mind – provides the AHL hopefuls with a strong whiff of ambition oxygen.

“The league as a whole’s kinda changing,” reckons Gawdin. “You see more younger guys stepping in all the time. They (the Stockton alumnus) put in the work and they deserve to be up there. So for them to get the chance is great for them and good for us, too.

“Obviously my goal in the fall is to make the (Flames) out of camp. That’s what I’m working towards. My only focus this summer.

“If not, though, I’ll just keep trying to be better and hopefully next season at some point get in a game or two, keep progressing, be reliable and wait my turn.”

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