Goaltender Ben Gaudreau had to wait 417 days between starts.
How did the San Jose Sharks’ third-round pick, his 2020-21 OHL season cancelled by COVID-19, keep growing his game between his last contest with the Sarnia Sting on Mar. 8, 2020 to his Apr. 29, 2021 start against Latvia at the Under-18 World Junior Championships?
Gaudreau answered that question during his Draft media availability. Fellow San Jose Sharks picks defenseman Gannon Laroque, center Ethan Cardwell, and defenseman Artem Guryev also took questions. Laroque and Cardwell went in the fourth round, while Guryev got taken in the fifth.
Why does Laroque have Luke Prokop’s back? Which San Jose Sharks star would Cardwell most like to have on his podcast? Which old-school defenseman does Guryev try to emulate?
Gaudreau, on his biggest improvement this year:
The biggest thing for me was definitely my glove. I was never really a big glove save kind of guy. I took pretty big strides with that. That really helped me control my rebounds and all that kind of stuff, putting it in the corner, keeping it in my glove. That was huge for me.
When it comes to the gym side of things, the strength that I gained in my legs really helped me with speed, agility, all that kind of stuff. My edges improved and my speed improved. Overall, gained quite a bit when it comes to my skating, which is one of my weaker points in my game.
Gaudreau, on if he expected to go around No. 81:
Talking to my agent, I dropped a little bit from where we thought we were going to go. But at the end of the day, we also just said we want to go to a place that wants me, that can kind of use me sooner than other teams.
Gaudreau, on the goalies who he styles himself most after:
Growing up, it was between Jonathan Quick and Carey Price. I tried to use the athleticism of Quick. But now, looking at more recent stuff, it’s between Carey Price and Vasilevskiy. Using Carey Price’s calmness, his edge work and all that kind of stuff. At the same time, using Vasilevsky’s edge work and his tracking skills and his save selection. Those two guys combined together can make a really good goalie.
Gaudreau, on relying on outdoor and roller rinks to practice and drill on because of the canceled OHL campaign:
Yeah, we were actually even doing outdoor rinks on roller blades for the summer. In my dad’s gym, we were doing stuff in there. We had like a batter’s cage set-up and I was on roller blades.
Being able to look back at the year that was and see what accomplished over that year is pretty awesome.
I tried to make the most out of it and do what I could to stay ready and stay sharp. So I think it’s cool to look back on all the different kind of unique things that I had to do and go through just to get here.
Laroque, on how he would describe his game:
I’m just a really physical defenseman with a really hard shot. I like to use my hockey IQ to my advantage and find open passing lanes.
Laroque, on which defensemen he emulates:
I kind of use three defenseman and take pieces from their game and add it into mine. Shea Weber, just his physicality on the backend and with his powerful shot. Drew Doughty is another one for me, just his playmaking ability and the way he finds passing lanes and is able to control the pressure and just find lanes. Roman Josi is another one for me, he wears the “C” on his chest.
Laroque, on what he wants to add to his game:
I was playing against the top lines there, playing more of a shutdown role. But this year, I want to take the next step and play more of a 200-foot game and just produce more.
Laroque, on if he knows Prokop:
Yeah, I played pee-wee hockey up here in Hamilton and he was the captain of the team. I couldn’t say enough good things about him. He was a great guy. I actually really looked up to him. I’m really looking forward to reaching out to him.
Laroque, on if he was surprised by Prokop coming out:
I didn’t actually know about any of that. I’m just really excited for him. He’s gonna be a better player because of it. And yeah, I’m gonna be by his side if he needs anything.
Cardwell, on how he would describe his game:
I’m quick to the boards. I’m not the biggest guy, height-wise, anyway. But I like to battle, get in the corners, get pucks out. Use my speed to my advantage. Have a quick release shot while being a heads-up player at the same time.
I compared myself to Travis Konecny for a while, but playing in Barrie and stuff, I get a lot of comparisons to Kevin Labanc. So it’s kind of funny.
Cardwell, on which San Jose Sharks star he would most like to get on his podcast:
Brent Burns would be pretty cool. He seems like a beauty off the ice and obviously an unreal player on the ice.
Cardwell, on where he was when he heard he got drafted:
I’ll just do a quick backstory on this one.
So my brother is a really good junior golfer. This week, we’re in Pinehurst, North Carolina, and he’s playing in the US Junior Amateur tournament. It just wrapped up a few days ago.
After last year, after the disappointment of the Draft, I figured I don’t really want to watch the Draft or anything this year. I don’t want to put too much pressure on it. If it happens, if I get a phone call, great. If it doesn’t, just keep putting my head down, and go back to work.
We were actually in the car driving and we stopped in West Virginia to cut up our trip because I live in Ontario.
I was sitting in the backseat of the car and I got a text from one of my buddies who I haven’t spoken to in a little bit and another one and another one before my feet popped up. And sure enough, I got a call from my agent saying San Jose and we were really excited about that one. I had great talks with them.
Really special to have my family here. My brother, my mom and my dad, but super excited to get back home to to Curtis, Ontario tomorrow and celebrate with family and friends.
Guryev, on moving from Russia to Canada at 12 to play hockey:
It was pretty difficult because I didn’t know any English. I had to get used to it. I had to use Google Translate. I used to walk in school with my Google Translate, writing in Russian and then translate to English. So it was difficult. But hockey wasn’t that difficult because I came here when I was young.
Guryev, on how he would describe his game:
I would say I’m something in between Vladimir Konstantinov and Mikhail Sergachev.
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