He is as low key a presence off the ice as there is in college hockey.
He is soft-spoken, polite and is most pleased when his teammates receive all the accolades and time in the spotlight.
But as much as Johnny Gaudreau attempts to fly under the radar, when the Boston College junior dons a pair of skates, it is impossible not to be wowed.
Coach Jerry York joked one day that he had run out of ways to describe the talents of the 20-year-old native of Carney’s Point, N.J. Opposing teams are well aware of his ability to maneuver through the smallest space and turn it into a scoring chance.
No shooting lane? No problem, he will just find a way to slip behind the defense and make an opening. He is the type of player who lifts fans out of their seats every shift.
York created a juggernaut when he put Gaudreau on left wing with senior center Bill Arnold and senior right wing Kevin Hayes. The three had been lobbying to play together since the summer but York was resistant because he wanted to see how the young forwards fit into the mix and didn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket.
But when the Eagles suffered an embarrassing loss to Holy Cross at Conte Forum on Nov. 29, York pulled the trigger on the big line.
Since their formation, BC is unbeaten in its last 15 games (14-0-1) including the school’s fifth-straight Beanpot championship earned on Monday night against Northeastern at TD Garden.
Gaudreau, Arnold and Hayes combined for 84 points in that span with a plus-70 rating. Overall, they are three of the top four scorers in the country with a combined 148 points in 29 games.
Gaudreau is in the midst of a 24-game point streak with 50 points in that span.
“I’m really excited I get to play with Kevin and Bill,’’ he said. “They’re both extremely talented forwards and great two-way players. [Hayes] protects pucks like no one I’ve ever seen and he’s going to do really well in his career.’’
Gaudreau was thrilled when he found out they would be together as a line beginning with the first of two against New Hampshire on Dec. 6.
“In the beginning of the summer [last year], we were giving [associate head coach Greg Brown and York] a hard time how we wanted to play together and we never got a chance to play together,’’ said Gaudreau. “We kept giving it to them and asking them and asking them. We started off the year on two different lines and when we lost to Holy Cross, coach said it was time for a change. It’s been working and hopefully, we can keep it going.’’
Gaudreau said the level of magical chemistry has not been lost on them.
“It’s special what we have right now,’’ he said. “I’d never gotten to play with Bill or Kev, maybe Bill for two or three games my sophomore year. It’s been great playing with them. They’re special players. It’s just a great fit for me to get to play with those guys.’’
Ask most players about their ongoing personal scoring streaks and they’re loathe to toot their own horns. It’s all about team goals and winning collective trophies. Gaudreau is no different.
“It’s pretty cool to hear about,’’ said Gaudreau, who leads the nation in scoring with 58 points. “It’s even better to see that we haven’t lost a game in 15. It’s great play by everyone, from offense to defense to the goalies and from freshmen to seniors. We’ve got a really special thing going right now so hopefully, we can keep it going.’’
Every year the Eagles have incredibly high expectations. Winning will do that. The team has captured the NCAA championship three times in the last six seasons. The last time was in 2012, the end of Gaudreau’s freshman season.
“[This team] is not too different,’’ said Gaudreau. “We’ve got a great freshman class this year. They’re doing a great job, every single one of them. There are great guys in the locker room. We’ve always had that at BC but I think it’s just the way we work in practice, the way the coaches push us and how we do video. It’s just the little things every day that makes us get better and better and it’s going to help us down the road.’’
Now that the Eagles have captured one trophy, their next goal is the Hockey East regular season championship, the league postseason title, followed by the NCAAs.
“It’s relaxing to know we’ve got a trophy already,’’ said Gaudreau. “We’re getting ready for [the rest of the league schedule]. Hopefully we can keep winning and gradually get to the biggest one, which is the NCAAs at the end of the year. It’s great to get the trophy for the younger guys. It’s special for them to get their first Beanpot and see what trophy season is all about.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Elle1027.