SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The majority of NHL prospects confront sobering realities early in their careers.
They won’t be signing eight-figure contracts. They won’t be the Hart, Norris or Vezina trophy candidates they fantasized. And in many cases, they won’t lock down a regular gig in the world’s top league.
Coyotes prospect Tyler Gaudet came to grips with the first two certainties a little earlier than most. That may be an advantage as he chases the third goal.
"I’ve always had an up and down junior career so to be signed by this organization could be looked at as a fresh start and a new beginning," Gaudet said this week from the Coyotes prospect development camp in which he took part.
Gaudet, 21, wasn’t drafted by an OHL team and he was passed over by every NHL team in two successive entry drafts before signing a three-year, entry-level contract with the Coyotes in November. But his detail-oriented, blue-collar game has caught the attention of both Tim Bernhardt, the team’s director of amateur scouting, and coach Dave Tippett.
"He just does a lot of things right," said Tippett, who gushed over Gaudet at the team’s town hall meeting earlier this summer. "He’s a guy who fell through the cracks for a couple years and yet has come on and his desire and determination have taken him a long way."
Tyler Gaudet wasn’t drafted by an OHL team and was passed over by every NHL team in two entry drafts before he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Coyotes in November.
Gaudet has always thought the game from the back-end out. He started his career as a defenseman and never put up gaudy numbers until last season when he had 26 goals and 61 points in 65 games for Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL.
That will serve him well as he attempts to fill the role the Coyotes envision for him — one that Boyd Gordon and Jeff Halpern filled before him.
"He’s going to come in as a third or fourth-line center," Tippett said. "You need a guy willing to come in and play against the other team’s top players, willing to sacrifice on the penalty kill."
There are no grand visions when you talk to Gaudet about his future. He freely admits he’s never been a star player and he understands he won’t be in the NHL. That sort of blunt candor comes from his parents, he said. His mom was a basketball coach who wanted him to play that sport but adapted her coaching terminology to fit his sport of choice as "his eye in the sky."
"If I had a bad game she would be on me," Gaudet said. "She and my dad, they didn’t candy-coat anything."
The Coyotes have asked Gaudet to work on his acceleration while continuing to hone the details of his game and adjust to the pace of the NHL. He is thankful for the feedback and praise he’s received and he’s thankful for the opportunity he’s been given. But he has no illusions that it is anything more than an opportunity.
"I think a lot of people, when they sign their first contact, get overexcited and think they’ve made the team," Gaudet said. "That’s just the first step. In the big scheme of things I still need to make the roster. I still need to prove myself.
"It’s a huge opportunity and I’m taking it very seriously."