Flames' Johnny Gaudreau gives credit to family for his success on ice

Rookie forward Johnny Gaudreau continues to come up big in critical moments for the Flames

You can't separate the coach completely from the dad, not even when the son happens to be one of the NHL's rookie of the year finalists and is currently playing in the second round of the playoffs.

Electrifying forward Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames — "Johnny Hockey" for short — was talking about his father and former coach, Guy Gaudreau, who still directs hockey at a rink in Sewell, N.J.

"My dad coached me for 10 years, and he calls me almost before every game, after every game and still likes to criticize me," Gaudreau said Thursday with a smile. "But he's really happy for me. It's great to hear from him every night."

Even NHLers with decades of experience tell stories about their dads texting with advice and sharp criticism. Gaudreau's parents have come out to Calgary a few times during the regular season and were on hand for the first round of the playoffs against Vancouver.

However, he is quick to give his family credit for helping him reach this stage, a level achieved despite doubt at every turn because of his slight stature, listed at 5-feet-9 and 150 pounds.

Gaudreau, 21, scored 24 goals and 64 points in the regular season, tying for the lead in the NHL's rookie scoring race.

"My dad ran a rink when I was younger, and he still runs the rink," Gaudreau said. "I got to go out on the ice whenever I wanted, and I could invite all my buddies, friends to come out whenever there was open ice. I kind of used that to my advantage when I was younger."

For all his spectacular moves on the ice, Gaudreau's personality is anything but showy. He is New Jersey-born and raised, and unfailingly modest when it comes to his accomplishments, a welcome personality trait in the team-first, not-me-first NHL.

In fact, Gaudreau wanted to talk about Mikael Backlund's overtime goal to win Game 3, something that would not have happened if Gaudreau hadn't scored with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

Without Gaudreau's equalizer, the Flames would have been looking at a 3-0 series deficit instead of two games to one, making Friday's Game 4 pivotal.

"A lot of his goal are big goals; they turn games around," said injured Flames defenseman and captain Mark Giordano.

"He's got that game-breaker … a lot like that guy in Chicago. Patrick Kane scores big goals, and I feel like Johnny is in that same ballpark with him this year."

Giordano sees plenty of Kane in Gaudreau, in terms of quickness and intelligence.

"The style, how dynamic he is with the puck, reminds me of Kane," he said. "I know Patrick Kane, probably before he got hurt this year, was the best offensive player in the league, so it's saying a lot.

"He [Gaudreau] sees the game two steps ahead of everyone else."

Part of the intrigue is Gaudreau's ability to stand out in the land of the NHL giants. Well, the results stand out.

Former Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who started for the Flames in Game 1, said earlier in the season that sometimes it was easy to miss Gaudreau in the dressing room, adding: "And on the ice, it's almost the same thing, you don't see him and suddenly he finds a way to score."

Fellow Flames rookie forward Josh Jooris remembered seeing Gaudreau in college at the Frozen Four, when Jooris was with Union College and Gaudreau with Boston College. Jooris spotted Gaudreau at a pre-event reception.

His impression?

"How does this kid do it? He looks like my little brother," Jooris said.

Bouma back?

The Flames might be getting injured forward Lance Bouma back for the first time in the playoffs. He wouldn't confirm it, but his smile after practice seemed to signal a return.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

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