Film Session: Johnny Gaudreau Is A Sublime Playmaker With A Deceptive Release And Elite Hockey Sense

By Dan Dukart on July 21, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Johnny Gaudreau controls the puck against the Edmonton Oilers in game two of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Gaudreau is something of an enigma.

Since his NHL debut in 2014-15, only the NHL's elite class of Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Leon Draisaitl, and Brad Marchand have registered more points than the 4th-round pick in 2011. He doesn't have the seemingly jet-propelled speed of McDavid, the rocket of a shot that Draisaitl possesses, or the all-around pedigree of Crosby. 

So, what's his secret sauce? The magic of 'Johnny Hockey' is his deception, his ability to freeze the opposition (be it the defender or the goalie). And in that instance, he creates, often putting the puck right on the tape of a linemate who is able to one-time a dangerous pass into a gaping net, or sneaking a shot over the goaltender's glove and under the crossbar.

Here are 10 clips from his 2021-22 season, in which he tallied 40-75-115, that really encapsulates the 5'9", 165-pound left winger.

Sublime Passes That Result In One-Timer Goals

Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk were arguably the best line in hockey last season. In both games against Columbus, Gaudreau set up one of his linemates for easy back-door goals. Here, you can see the chemistry between him and Tkachuk on an in-tight 2-on-1.

While the play to Tkachuk showcases his instantaneous processing, the below goal shows his ability to transport the puck from the defensive zone into an offensive zone entry. After, he walks Zach Werenski before sliding the puck back to Lindholm for a tap-in.

In the below clip, watch how Gaudreau is able to outclass the entire Coyotes defense (and their goalie) through his deception. Tkachuk may have been the only other player on the ice that seemed to realize that Gaudreau had no intention of carrying the puck with the grain. As soon as    

This clip has a similar vibe, with a spinning backhand pass from a seemingly innocuous place on the ice. But the result is the same, with Tkachuk timing his route to the high-danger area perfectly and getting a stick on the pass before a Winnipeg defender can squash the play.

In the postseason, Gaudreau didn't slow down, tallying an impressive 3-11-14 in 12 games. Here, he streaks the neutral zone with speed before finding the trailer, Michael Stone, for yet another one-timed goal.

Deceptive Shots Over The Glove

As mentioned, Gaudreau doesn't possess a Laine-esque shot. But hey, you score 40 goals in the NHL, you know how to put the puck in the net. His secret is a deceptive release, shooting almost off-balance and before the unsuspecting goaltender is set. His favorite place to shoot seems to be high-glove.   

In this first play, Gaudreau tips the puck around Penguins' defender John Marino, then beats both Penguins up ice before cleanly beating Casey DeSmith while in stride. 

Another play in which Gaudreau gets behind the defense, another snipe over the glove. This time he beats Sergei Bobrovsky with a quick snap of the wrist. 

Like the goal against Bobrovsky, here Gaudreau is the beneficiary of another tape-to-tape (and perfectly on time) pass from Tkachuk. The replay of this video does a great job to slow down his release and show that it's the location of the shot - and not how hard he shoots it - that allows him to beat Jordan Binnington with ease.

Great scorers are able to find the 'quiet areas' in the ice, the soft ice where nobody is defending. Watch on the replay how Gaudreau backs up a half-step into the quiet ice before getting a pass from Tkachuk. He kicks it to his blade, then wastes no time in roofing it. 

I saved my favorite for last, as it shows the full range of skill in Gaudreau's game.  Here, he collects a pass from behind him off of his skate and right onto his stick. At full speed, he enters the zone while being pursued. Then, to cap it off, he tortures the Blues' other goalie (at the time), Ville Husso, shooting the puck in between strides. If you freeze the clip at 0:38, you'll see that Gaudreau is nearly entirely airborne for a split second before landing on his off-skate. Just a ridiculous play.

These signature skills are just the tip of the iceberg of what makes the 28-year-old such a dynamic player. And in a short few months, he'll be doing it while donning a Blue Jackets sweater.