Gaudet signs NHL deal with Coyotes (Updated)Monday, November 04, 2013 by: Brad Coccimiglio
It’s amazing what a difference a year makes in a hockey career.
A year ago, Tyler Gaudet was skating with the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Canada Hockey League.
December 2012 saw Gaudet sign with the Soo Greyhounds as a free agent, joining his former coach, Sheldon Keefe, with the Ontario Hockey League club. This afternoon Gaudet took another big step in his career as the overage forward signed a three-year entry level contract with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.
“It’s been just a mix of emotions,” Gaudet said of signing the deal. “I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s great to finally have your dream come true like that. To sign, especially with an organization like Phoenix, I just can’t explain it.”
Gaudet is a year removed from being cut by the Quebec League’s Gatineau Olympiques and getting settled in with the Lumber Kings. Greyhounds coach Sheldon Keefe, who also coached Gaudet in Pembroke, called the overage forward’s story a “great one.”
“You can’t help but be thrilled for Tyler,” said Keefe. “His story is a great one. It was a pretty unconventional way to get to an NHL contract. Certainly there’s a level of pride when you’re along for the ride with him. Really I was just a passenger in the journey for him. Right from the time he came down (to Pembroke) from Gatineau of the Quebec League to come play Jr. A, he just arrived with a great attitude and which is rare for a player coming down from major junior to have such a positive attitude.”
Said Gaudet: “It’s been a crazy year. I’ve had my downs, being with Gatineau and then getting sent down. I knew my road to try to play pro hockey was going to be difficult and long. I was expecting to play Jr. A the whole time but luckily Sheldon brought me up. I just wanted to keep playing my game and playing it hard. I wasn’t expecting it to happen this fast.”
Gaudet joined the Greyhounds last season and Keefe said the Hamilton, Ont. native came in and filled roles asked of him.
“Last year he came in and did whatever was asked of him,” said Keefe. “He executed very well in the role that we had him in. This year he felt a lot more comfortable right from the get-go starting fresh with a new team as one of the oldest players. Last year we had a veteran club that had been together for a few years so he never necessarily got comfortable. This year, right from the start, he’s been a leader for us and that’s really helped his confidence and helped him blossom as a player.”
Gaudet called his offensive jump this season a product of confidence and work put in during the summer.
“Confidence helps a lot in that aspect,” Gaudet said of his offensive spike. “Also, just being comfortable with the team and starting out with the team right from training camp and getting to know the guys helps. I wanted to improve that role myself. I worked during the summer on my offence a lot and I wanted to focus on that part of my game and develop it.”
Keefe credited the 20-year-old with working to improve his game during the summer.
“He’s obviously taken great strides in his offensive game,” said Keefe. “The credit goes to him. It would have been very easy for him to just settle in to being a defensive forward. Everyone in our organization would have been happy with that. He was a huge part of our team last year in the role that he was playing. We would have been very content with the same role from him but that wasn’t good enough for him. He worked all summer long to quicker. He worked all summer long on his shot and his hands in tight and every time you talk to him he makes a point to talk about how he’s working on those areas of his game.”
The Coyotes plan to have Gaudet finish out the season with the Greyhounds before joining the Coyotes organization, most likely with the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates, after the Greyhounds season concludes.
File photo courtesy Kenneth Armstrong