Versatile forward Gaudreau joins Wild: ‘It’s a beautiful job’

Versatile forward Gaudreau joins Wild: ‘It’s a beautiful job’
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Practice had been adjourned for almost half an hour.

Coach Dean Evason skated off. Same with most of the Wild players.

Not Frederick Gaudreau, though. He was still flinging passes to teammate Nico Sturm.

"Every day is just really a blessing to be able to play," Gaudreau said after finally leaving the ice.

An undrafted forward who has roved between the NHL and minors in recent years, Gaudreau has plenty going for him as he debuts with the Wild.

He's on a line with Kevin Fiala, taking reps on the power play and has familiarity with Evason from playing for him previously.

Sizing up the big picture, however, isn't really Gaudreau's thing. His attention is on the present, a mentality that wards off the pressures of the profession while illuminating the upside.

"I've been bouncing around a lot so far in my career," Gaudreau said. "This is a really good opportunity, but I think that the good mind-set to approach this whole thing — like any opportunity — is just go day by day and focus on what you have to do every single [time] on the ice and mostly just to enjoy it."

Gaudreau joined the Wild from Pittsburgh, where he split last season between the Penguins and their American Hockey League affiliate.

That's also how Gaudreau's tenure with Nashville went before that, a back-and-forth shuffle that's culminated in more than 400 games across the NHL, AHL and ECHL since the Predators' minor-league squad in Milwaukee signed the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League product in 2014.

Evason was the coach for Milwaukee at the time, and both were still with the Nashville organization when Gaudreau became an overnight sensation by scoring three goals (including two game-winners) for the Predators during the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins in 2017. Pittsburgh went on to win the series in six games.

"It was huge," Gaudreau said about his performance. "But it was so big. Media's everywhere. People texting me from everywhere. My phone blowing up every day. At that time, that was one of the moments where I really just put everything aside and I focused on just the present moment.

"I just decided at that time to go shift by shift and then go after that game by game and really keep that focus right here, right now and put everything aside. It worked well for me."

The 28-year-old has held onto that philosophy, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it even more apparent to him that he's lucky to be playing hockey. Gaudreau believes on-ice results stem from living in the moment.

"There's kind of that duality in the sport, the big business part of it, but there's also the reason why we started to play as kids and it's really simple," said Gaudreau, who is from Quebec. "It's just because it's a beautiful game. As a professional, I've gone through both ways and I realized that when I got into the stress part of the business side and what could happen and the contracts and all the media that sometimes can be tough to read, when I've gone on that side, it never led me anywhere but stress or anxiety.

"On the flip side, when I just focus on showing up and enjoying every day, I realize it's a beautiful job."

With the Wild, that job is multifaceted.

Winning faceoffs, being steady defensively and getting up ice to the offensive zone are the qualities Evason sees in Gaudreau, who also has practiced with the second power play unit. Last season, Gaudreau scored twice in 19 games with Pittsburgh and has five goals and 18 points in 103 regular-season NHL games.

"He's a very versatile player for us," Evason said, "and we're excited to have him."

After the Wild signed Gaudreau to a two-year, $2.4 million contract in the summer, Evason had Gaudreau lining up at center and that's where he's suited up in training camp, alongside Victor Rask and Fiala. That's another reunion for Gaudreau, as he also teamed up with Fiala when both starred in the Nashville ranks.

"It's been great to catch up with him again, and we had some good times in Milwaukee," Gaudreau said. "Of course, it's always exciting to play with special players like that."

This kind of assignment will give Gaudreau the chance to establish a meaningful role with the Wild during a season that should be extremely telling for the team.

But Gaudreau is concentrating on what is happening now instead of what could happen later.

"Being put in a situation where I can help this team is a huge opportunity for me," Gaudreau said. "I'm just here to enjoy every second of it."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting