Brady Gaudet arrived in Red Deer with the reputation of being an offensive-minded defenceman.
One year later, he’s convinced he’s become more. Much more.
“I’ve think I’ve taken a lot of strides in the right direction,” Gaudet said Thursday. “I’m a more rounded player now, not just an offensive or good-skating D-man. I’ve been able to add a lot of things to my game since I’ve come to Red Deer. I’ve been able to play a lot more on the special teams and in all kinds of situations.
“That’s where my game has really evolved . . . I’ve now kind of an all-situation guy, not just a one-dimensional player.”
The 19-year-old rearguard, acquired last October from the Kamloops Blazers, credits a combination of added experience and coaching for making him a better player.
“The more you play the better you’re going to get, that’s just how it is,” said Gaudet. “And (Rebels associate coach) Jeff Truitt was amazing for me last year. He understood what I was going through being new to the team and he spent a lot of time with me.
“He was phenomenal in that regard and has been this season as well. And having Steve (newly-hired assistant coach O’Rourke) on board is great as well, he’s right there when you need anything. When you have a coaching staff you can fire questions at and always get an honest opinion and have them always right there by your side . . . that’s huge to have.”
Gaudet, the Blazers’ first-round pick — 10th overall — in the 2009 WHL bantam draft, seemed genuinely happy to have a change of address last fall. His positive outlook hasn’t subsided.
“A lot of people are afraid of change but I think it’s one of the best things that can happen,” he said. “It’s a clean slate for everyone and a chance for a player to work with new coaches. Jeff saw me play two games when I arrived and said ‘OK, this is what we’re going to do’. We changed up a few things and he pointed out to me what I needed to do to become a better player. It’s just been slight adjustments here and there.”
Gaudet is one of three alternate captains this season, joining Lukas Sutter and Brooks Maxwell. It’s a privilege he doesn’t take lightly.
“It is nice, it gives you a pretty good feeling knowing that the younger players can come to you in different situations,” he said. “Just knowing that you’re relied upon in those situations of trust and that you have the trust of the coaching staff is special.
“It’s an honour to be able to wear a letter and represent the team, especially a team like this.”
The Redvers, Sask., product is high on the Rebels’ potential this season, especially with the return of CHL goaltender of the year Patrik Bartosak.
“A lot of teams struggle with their goaltending but we’ve been able to build a team from the goaltending on out,” said Gaudet. “When you have a good guy in the paint and can build a strong ‘D’ corps around him and have some forwards who can score, you’re in good shape.
“The optimism is very high here, not just with everyone on the team but also with the fans. We have a well balanced team.”
The Rebels, of course, will be that much stronger if defenceman Mathew Dumba is returned by the Minnesota Wild, a movement that likely won’t happen for at least another month, if at all.
“That’s a big question mark — what’s happening with Dumba, and obviously none of us know at this point,” said Gaudet. “Right now you just kind of count him out of the picture and if and when he does come back it’s a huge bonus. That way you’re not counting on him, you’re not using his absence as an excuse.
“It will be a huge bonus if he does come back. If not, then great for him and we’ll still just be the team we started with. That’s kind of the way we have to look at it.”
Gaudet, who last season put up 20 points (5-15) in 53 games with Red Deer and had a goal and an assist and was a plus-4 in last weekend’s 4-2 and 6-3 wins over Kootenay, will be back in uniform tonight when the Rebels host the Regina Pats.
The Pats, after dropping two games to Swift Current to open the season, scored a convincing and somewhat eyebrow-raising 6-0 win over the host Edmonton Oil Kings Wednesday night.
“That’s a pretty big statement win for them, especially getting it in Edmonton,” said Gaudet. “They (Pats) must have been pretty gung-ho.”
The Regina victory also reminded the Rebels that no team in the league can be taken for granted, Gaudet noted.
“The parity is pretty good throughout the league,” he said. “We’re definitely going to have to come prepared to play Friday.”