Adam Gaudette, once a top prospect, is back in the NHL with the Blues

WASHINGTON— Adam Gaudette is back in the NHL after spending more than a year and a half in the minors. He is determined to take advantage of his last chance.

Gaudette will play its first league game since April 2022 on Thursday evening and qualify for qualification St Louis Blues with the Washington Capitals. Once a top contender, the 27-year-old believes he is a much better all-round player at his fifth club than he was previously at this level.

“I’m a completely different player than I was back then, and I’m excited to show it,” Gaudette said after the Blues morning skate. “The main thing I’ve been focusing on is my two-way game. I really focused on my details and doing things, and when I do that, it leads to offense. I know I’ll get my chances and I have the confidence to put the puck in the net.”

Gaudette did that better than anyone in the American Hockey League this season, leading all players in goals with 24 and ranking third in points with 36 for the Springfield Thunderbirds. Blues interim coach Drew Bannister is hoping Gaudette can add some scoring punch to a group that hasn’t scored goals recently.

“I think we need that throughout our lineup: guys who want to shoot more than just pass, and Adam brings that,” Bannister said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence at the moment, so I think it’s a good opportunity for us to get him in the lineup and see if he can have success with us.”

Gaudette, a Massachusetts native who played three collegiate seasons at Northeastern, scored 142 points in 116 games and won the Hobey Baker Award as the NCAA’s top player in 2018, has always been offensive-minded. He started with Vancouver before moving to Chicago, then Ottawa, signing with Toronto and moving to St. Louis from April 2021 to February 2023.

After scoring just 70 points in his first 218 NHL games, Gaudette said St. Louis management and coaches were clear about what he needed to improve on. He did his best to listen and committed to playing a 200-foot style and not cheating to create scoring opportunities.

“I like the current state of my game,” Gaudette said. “I think I’ve done a lot of good working with the staff in Springfield and I’m continuing to develop my overall game. I’m just happy to be back.”

Bannister, who replaced Craig Berube as coach last month, was previously in Springfield and likes what he sees in Gaudette’s transformation, particularly praising his work ethic.

“He gets on pucks, he’s strong on pucks, he moves his feet,” Bannister said. “Defensively, he was a detailed guy for an offensive player who does so much. He works hard on the defensive side of the puck, so I’m excited to see that here.”

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