Star goalie in the making

February 14, 2020

The best young goalie in the Ontario Hockey League was born in 2003 and is a product of the Great North Midget Hockey League and the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.

Ben Gaudreau, who hails from the small, North Bay area village of Corbeil, Ontario, has had some huge moments in this, his rookie season with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL.

Tending goal for Sarnia, which is the last-place team in the 10-member Western Conference, Gaudreau began his OHL career in spectacular fashion last October after being sidelined for almost six months with a knee injury.

In his OHL debut outing of this past October, Gaudreau stopped 49 of 50 shots to post the victory for Sarnia, which had taken the 6-foot-1, 165-pound goalie in the first round, seventh overall, at the league’s 2019 priority selections draft.

Gaudreau was a standout for the North Bay Major Trappers of the Great North loop in 2018-2019, posting a 1.13 goals against average and racking up five shutouts in 21 games, prompting Sarnia to do what is very seldom done in the OHL — take a goalie in the first round of the draft.

While playing for a first-place major midget team in North Bay in 2018-2019, Gaudreau has had to transition to tending goal for a lowly OHL squad in Sarnia in 2019-2020.

In fact, Gaudreau has faced an overwhelming average of more than 40 shots per game in the Sarnia net this season. And his numbers are exceptional, especially for a rookie who just turned 17 years of age last month.

On a Sarnia team that has a record of 18-29-6 through 53 games of this season, Gaudreau has a record of 7-9-2 with an .890 save percentage and 4.34 goals against average.

And as an indication of how Gaudreau’s introduction to Sarnia and the OHL has been a baptism by fire, he has faced a whopping 680 shots (saving 605 of them) in 1,038 minutes of action.

His most recent outing was on Thursday night when he returned home to North Bay and made 28 saves to backstop visiting Sarnia to a 5-4 overtime win over the Battalion.

In a prior start against the contending Windsor Spitfires, Gaudreau made a franchise-record 60 saves and was named the game’s first star as Sarnia lost 6-5 in overtime.

After that particular loss to Windsor, Spitfires head coach Trevor Letowski called Gaudreau’s outing “a great performance. He is obviously a star in the making. We had a ton of shots on him and pretty high quality chances and he stopped 60 of 65 shots. He is a big guy who takes up the bottom of the net and makes it real tough to score on him.”

Meanwhile, the man who used his first round pick in 2019 to draft the youngster, Sarnia general manager Nick Sinclair, calls Gaudreau “an elite level goalie. He is one of the best goalies to come through the OHL draft in a long time.

“He is very sound in the net … very, very agile and athletic,” Sinclair added, in further praise of Gaudreau. “He is a hockey goalie through and through. He studies the game. He is a very determined kid who wants to get better … an ultra competitive kid who hates losing. He has got swagger … and he is also a very intelligent kid.”

Meantime, as Sarnia is on the outside looking in at a Western Conference playoff spot and facing long odds to make it to the post season, the Sting certainly appears to have its goalie for now and the future in Gaudreau.

“Oh my, he is an outstanding goalie who is going to be a top goalie in this league for many years to come,” offered coach Dale Hunter of the perennial OHL powerhouse London Knights. “The ceiling is high for him, without question.”

Hunter, who coached Team Canada to the World Junior Hockey Championships gold medal title last month, added that “what stands out about (Gaudreau) is the compete level that goes with the skill level.”

PHOTO: Sarnia Sting goalie Ben Gaudreau. (Postmedia photo.)

What you think about “Star goalie in the making”

  1. All the more reason for the northern OHL teams to ignore him.
    He didn’t have a great outing today against Flint but if Dale Hunter likes him, I’m sure another trade with Sarnia is in the works.

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