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Calgary Flames Glenn Gawdin during Battle of Alberta prospects game in Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday September 10, 2019. Al Charest / Postmedia
Calgary Flames Glenn Gawdin during NHL training camp at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Saturday, September 16, 2017.
In the hockey biz, this sort of reference speaks volumes.
“I remember when we signed him, talking to his junior coach at the time and he just raved about him,” said Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving of forward prospect Glenn Gawdin. “I can remember him saying to us, ‘He’s one of those guys, as he goes up the levels, he just becomes a guy that coaches trust.’ ”
Gawdin has become exactly that for the Flames’ farm club — the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat.
Proof of that, the 22-year-old centre — now in his sophomore season in the pro ranks — will skate in the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic in Ontario, Calif.
The showcase includes Sunday’s skill competition (6 p.m. MT) and Monday’s three-on-three tournament (8 p.m. MT). Both will be broadcast on TSN2.
“Just the whole experience, I think it will be pretty cool,” Gawdin said of the all-star call. “It’s definitely an honour. Going into the season, it’s not something you necessarily think about, but it’s obviously nice to be recognized and to be rewarded for a good start.”
Gawdin certainly deserves to be sharing the ice with the AHL’s elite.
The 6-foot-1, 191-lb. pivot is clipping along at a point-per-game pace, tops on his team and tied for seventh of the league-wide scoring charts with 15 goals and 25 assists in 40 outings so far.
He tallied twice in Friday’s overtime loss to the Ontario Reign — the Heat hit the break with a 24-10-6 record, sitting second in the Pacific Division standings — and has already eclipsed his totals from his rookie season.
“He’s really smart, he’s really, really competitive and he can touch a whole bunch of different parts of the game,” Treliving praised. “If you need a big draw, if you need a blocked shot … You just trust him. He’s going to do the right thing. He’s going to do the smart thing. And those guys who are ultra competitive and can think the game, can get out of situations, those are valuable players. Those two things are his calling cards — his hockey sense and competitiveness.
“In a short period of time, he’s become a really important player there in all situations — both sides of special teams, five-on-five. And on top of all that, to be recognized as an all-star? He’s had a terrific year. He’s taken a huge step forward.”
That’s obvious when you analyze Gawdin’s offensive stats.
After collecting nearly half of his points as a rookie on the man-advantage, he’s proven in 2019-20 to be an impact sort at even-strength, with a dozen goals and 15 assists already in that standard scenario.
“He has done a good job of coming in this year and saying, ‘OK, I had a good solid campaign in my first year, and now I have to grow more. I have to expand my role,’ ” said Heat bench boss Cail MacLean. “What I appreciate about Glenn and I think he’s done well with is we’ve sort of challenged him to both be a guy that can stay an effective 200-foot player but keep contributing and find more ways to influence a game offensively.
“Credit to him for recognizing that it’s not enough to just collect points and be successful in power-play situations. You have to make sure you’re doing it all the time. Because if you get to the NHL, you might not get that power-play opportunity.”
Gawdin certainly hopes he’s trending towards a big-league look-see, and this is a positive indicator.
Since the Flames moved their affiliate to Stockton, they’ve had five other reps selected to the AHL All-Star Classic — Derek Grant, Mark Jankowski, Rasmus Andersson, Andrew Mangiapane and Curtis Lazar. (Gawdin’s close friend and roommate, Matthew Phillips, was also invited this year, but he’s currently recovering from a fracture in his kneecap.)
Andersson, Jankowski and Mangiapane, of course, are now regulars at the Saddledome. The others are employed elsewhere in the NHL.
“Obviously, you do notice that,” Gawdin admitted. “But if you make the all-star game, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be in the NHL. I think it’s something to look at, but it’s just more or less being on the right track and you know that you have to keep working. Because until now, whatever you’ve been doing has been working. So you just have to keep doing what got you there.
“I think the reason why we’re all playing pro hockey is to play in the NHL, and obviously that’s my goal. I think that I’ve taken the right steps and I’m kind of inching my way up the ladder. I just have to continue to work and continue to have the confidence in myself that I can play there.”
The higher-ups at the Saddledome are tickled with the way he’s trending.
The staff in St. Louis, on the other hand, must be wondering if they made a mistake. You don’t often question the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the Blues drafted Gawdin in the fourth round in 2015 and ultimately did not offer him a contract.
He instead inked an entry-level deal with the Flames in November 2017, the same season he led the Swift Current Broncos to a Western Hockey League title.
“I think that’s something that will stick with me for a long time,” Gawdin said of that coulda-been confidence-buster. “I mean, when it happened, obviously I was disappointed, but some people were telling me that it was probably for the best. It’s pretty hard to believe them at that time, but looking back on it, I think it was. It’s something that has helped me, even though when I was going through it, I didn’t think it would. But definitely, that chip on my shoulder is going to stay with me and it has.”
“If you don’t believe in yourself, I don’t think you’re going to go very far. You need to have that confidence in yourself to know what kind of player you are and that you can do it, and obviously you have to put the work in and do all the other things that go with that.
“I think when you have that confidence deep down and the work ethic, the sky is the limit.”
On Twitter: @WesGilbertson
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