Thayer Academy has enjoyed its share of outstanding hockey players over the years. Its notable alumni list includes NHLers and Olympians such as Mike Mottau, Jeremy Roenick, Dave Silk and current Thayer coach Tony Amonte.
This season’s Tigers lineup boasts a center who has the potential to etch his name alongside those players in Thayer hockey lore — but his first challenge is making sure people know his name.
Adam Gaudette, a 17-year-old junior from Braintree, Mass., is enjoying a spectacular season for the Tigers with 61 points through 23 games, and he is doing it without any of the hype or attention common among similar players. Gaudette failed to register on anybody’s radar before the season started, did not field calls from college recruiters and was not generating much interest from USA Hockey.
The reason for the lack of attention? Gaudette barely played any hockey in the previous two seasons. In his freshman year at Thayer, Gaudette sprained a tendon in his shoulder in his first game. He returned to the lineup after missing a quarter of the season, but he suffered the same injury to his other shoulder a handful of games into his comeback and spent much of the rest of the year on the sidelines.
Then, just two games into his sophomore campaign, Gaudette broke his foot while playing basketball in gym class. He was unable to play hockey until the end of the season, and while he competed in a handful of games, he said he never felt like himself on the ice.
So Amonte’s preseason message for Gaudette ahead of this year was simple: Don’t get hurt.
Gaudette upped the ante. He stayed healthy and emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in prep hockey, trading the regional scoring lead back-and-forth all season with highly touted Dexter forward Ryan Donato, who also had put up 61 points through 23 games.
But it takes more than just a healthy player to score at that pace, evident by the fact that Gaudette and Donato are the only two players in prep hockey this season to average more than 2.5 points per game.
“It’s something I’ve never seen at my three or four years at Thayer, having a guy score so many points and produce the way he has,” Amonte said. “It’s a throwback to some of our better players in Thayer’s history in company with Roenick and some other guys who were able to play at the next level and compete at a very high level.”
Gaudette clearly has talent, and Amonte said the 17-year-old also displays an impressive amount of determination.
While Gaudette could not play for the most of his first two Thayer seasons, he remained a constant presence on the sidelines to support his teammates while taking the opportunity to study the game in a way that is impossible to do playing. Once Gaudette was healthy enough, he started working out at Parmy’s, an off-ice strength and conditioning center in Avon, Mass., to improve his overall fitness, work on his footwork and refine his shot.
Now, in addition to his own Thayer practices, Gaudette often attends his younger brother’s practices to fit in extra time in the shooting room. And when Gaudette is home and not working on his schoolwork, he heads outside to skate and shoot around on his backyard rink.
“It’s like a business for him,” Amonte said of Gaudette’s work ethic. “He comes in here and he’s very business-like. He knows the importance of each and every game and he puts his heart and soul into it. He’s not here to socialize. He’s here to play hockey, play hard and be the best that he can be.”
For Gaudette, part of his motivation comes from the lack of recognition he receives outside of the stat charts.
“I like to prove people wrong,” Gaudette said. “People were going into this season thinking, ‘Oh, where is this kid from, what is he doing?’ and then just surprising people, amazing people, it’s a good feeling.”
Gaudette also said the competition for the scoring lead this year between him and Donato serves as great motivation. The two ’96 birthdates have been competing against each other since they were in Mites and remain friends off the ice despite never having played on the same team together.
“Adam’s a good player and you could always tell he had a lot of skill and potential from the beginning,” Donato said. “I’m glad to see now that it’s starting to click for him and you can tell he’s starting to put up a lot of points. Everything is starting to line up for him real nice.”
Of course, Gaudette’s breakout season benefits his team just as much as it does him personally. Most of Thayer’s wins this season have been blowouts thanks in part to the production from Gaudette and linemate Lincoln Griffin (55 points in 23 games). In the rare close games, Gaudette can be a difference-maker, as he showed when he scored a go-ahead goal in a 3-2 win over Tabor on Feb. 12 or when he notched the game-winner in a 6-4 win over Cushing in January.
Thanks to his production, determination and versatility, Gaudette is finally starting to earn attention from college scouts and could be an interesting player to watch ahead of the 2015 NHL draft, as his October birthday makes him ineligible for the 2014 draft.
For now, people are not only starting to learn Gaudette’s name; they are starting to remember it, a level of attention that Amonte said is long overdue.
“I just feel like he’s a guy that hasn’t gotten that much respect, but that’s what I love about him,” Amonte said. “He hasn’t been talked about with the Ryan Donatos and the other top ’96 players who have already committed to Division 1 schools. I feel he’s right there. I feel he’s a top player in New England prep school. It’s nice to see a kid like that who hasn’t really gotten a lot of notoriety to get some people talking about him, to get some people watching him.”