Player: Frederick Gaudreau
Born: May 1, 1993 (28)
Weight: 180 lbs.
Birthplace: Bromont, Quebec, Canada
2020-21 Statistics: 19 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 P
Contract Status: Signed a one-year, two-way contract with a $700,000 cap hit in October 2020; will be a UFA this summer.
During the six-game series with the New York Islanders, Gaudreau registered a goal and two assists for three points.
A small sample size here when looking through the WAR chart. Gaudreau was productive at both ends of the ice, even if his Quality of Competition and Quality of Teammate show a subpar player.
His career trajectory shows a player that has been a steady, inoffensive bottom-sixer. And give credit to Gaudreau for clawing his way back into the league after an absence during his age-26 season.
In simplest terms, as these charts point out, Gaudreau was a positive player when analyzing his shots and goals against. He was primarily deployed in lower-leverage, 5v5 situations, typical of your average bottom-six forwards.
Gaudreau’s even-strength offensive numbers highlight how fortunate he was, especially in front of the net. The redder the better, as the chart says. Defensively, it’s a little bit of everything. Not too great, not too bad, either.
Story of the Season
Freddy Gaudreau’s story of the season begins rather late into the 2021 campaign. His first game played in the black-and-gold came on March 18 in a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The 28-year-old was thrust into the Penguins’ lineup after injuries (surprise, surprise) ravaged Pittsburgh’s squad. Well, as the saying goes in sports, one player’s fall is another player’s opportunity. And boy, did Gaudreau take advantage of his.
Having not played in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, it was assumed that Gaudreau would come in and simply be a body on the fourth line and penalty-kill.
After being held without a point in his first three contests with the Penguins, he proceeded to find the scoresheet in four out of his next five games from March 24 through April 1.
By season’s end, Gaudreau had played so well that Mike Sullivan had to find a place in the lineup for the Quebec native. Finishing with 10 points in 19 regular season games was something I’m not even sure Gaudreau himself was expecting to accomplish.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For %: 52.86 (3rd)
Goals For %: 70.59 (2nd)
xGF %: 9.04 (15th)
Scoring Chance %: 57.30 (2nd)
High Danger Scoring Chance %: 53.42 (3rd)
5v5 on-ice shooting %: 10.62 (5th)
On-ice save %: 94.51 (2nd)
—Take one glance at these numbers and you’d think: “Wow, this guy is an absolute stud!”
But it’s important to note that, out of all the qualified forwards on this list, Gaudreau finished 15th in terms of TOI with just 203:30. For reference, Jake Guentzel led this category with almost 900 minutes of ice time.
Gaudreau is a quality depth forward, but these statistics are most certainly skewed because of his relatively small sample size when compared to other players in the Penguins’ lineup.
Gaudreau’s first goal with the Penguins is scored thanks to a great saucer pass from fellow fourth-liner, Sam Lafferty. The pass, release, and elevation of the puck was a beautiful sight to see.
Former Penguins prospect, Daniel Sprong, was just out of reach of Jason Zucker’s pass to Gaudreau that leads to this goal being scored. Credit to Gaudreau for taking that pass behind him, phasing out Sprong, and beating Vitek Vanecek.
And finally, Gaudreau’s lone goal of the 2021 playoffs saw his tenacity bring reward after his initial shot was blocked. He again elevates the puck to beat Ilya Sorokin.
The forward came in and took advantage of the opportunity presented to him. He rode his momentum all the way until the conclusion of the season. Yes, this may be another example of the classic “flash in the pan” player, but Gaudreau’s contributions down the stretch can not be ignored when reflecting on the latter half of the 2021 season.
What does Freddy G have in store for 2021-22? He only has 103 career regular season games to his name, and was completely out of the NHL during 2019-20. He hasn’t played more than 55 games in a single season. 10 of his 18 career points came with Pittsburgh this year. On the flip side, however, Gaudreau does have four goals and six points in 14 career playoff games.
Throw it all together and you may think the negatives outweigh the positives. In short spurts, he has looked like a competent NHL depth piece, but could he keep this kind of play up over a full, 82-game season? That’s the million-dollar question.
You’d have to hope for more of the same, but that may be hoping for too much. Can he keep scoring at this pace? Unlikely, considering his PPG over 82 games would have been 43.1 points during a normal 2021 season, and he’s come nowhere close to that at the NHL level.
Ideally, Gaudreau turns some of these negatives and small sample sizes into positives. But he has become somewhat of an enigma heading into next season because, frankly, no one knew he would produce as well as he did.
Question to Ponder
Has Gaudreau’s strong play earned him a contract extension heading into 2021-22? It’s possible, especially considering that Teddy Blueger could be picked as the Seattle Kraken’s expansion player, which would leave the Penguins with Crosby, Malkin, Carter, and Gaudreau down the middle when everyone is healthy.
Or will Gaudreau find himself in the same role that has come to define his professional career to this point: an above-average AHL forward whose offensive numbers simply haven't translated at the highest tier of professional hockey?
How would you grade Frederick Gaudreau’s 2020-21 season?
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