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Once a top prospect, Adam Gaudette is back in the NHL - this time with the St. Louis Blues

NHL: Preseason-St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks

Sep 28, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; St. Louis Blues forward Adam Gaudette (88) skates against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — Adam Gaudette is back in the NHL after spending more than a year and a half in the minors. He’s determined to make his latest chance count.

Gaudette on Thursday night is set to play his first game in the league since April 2022, suiting up for the St. Louis Blues at the Washington Capitals. Once a top prospect, the 27-year-old who is with his fifth organization believes he’s a much better all-around player than he was before at this level.

“I’m a completely different player than I was then, and I’m excited to showcase that,” Gaudette said after the Blues morning skate. “The most important thing I’ve been focusing on is my two-way game. I’ve been really focused on my details and doing the things, and in doing so that leads to the offense. I know I’m going to get my chances, and I have the confidence to put the puck in the back of the net.”

Gaudette has done that better than anyone else in the American Hockey League this season, leading all player with 24 goals and ranking third with 36 points while playing for the Springfield Thunderbirds. Blues interim coach Drew Bannister hopes Gaudette can deliver a scoring punch to a group that has been lacking goals lately.

“I think we need that throughout our lineup: guys that want to shoot more than look to pass, and Adam brings that,” Bannister said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, so I think it’s a good opportunity for us to put him in the lineup and see if he can have success with us.”

Gaudette, a Massachusetts native who starred over three college seasons at Northeastern — putting up 142 points over 116 games and winning the Hobey Baker Award in 2018 as the NCAA’s top player — has always been offensively minded. He started with Vancouver before being traded to Chicago and then to Ottawa, signing with Toronto and getting dealt to St. Louis, all from April 2021 through February 2023.

After bouncing around with just 70 points in his first 218 NHL games, Gaudette said St. Louis management and coaches have been clear on what they wanted him to improve on. He did his best to listen, committing to playing a 200-foot style and not cheating for scoring chances.

“I like where my game’s at now,” Gaudette said. “I think I’ve done a lot of good things, working with the staff in Springfield, and I’m developing my overall game. I’m just happy to be back.”

Bannister, who replaced Craig Berube as coach last month, was in Springfield before and likes what he sees as far as Gaudette’s transformation, specifically praising his work ethic.

“He gets on pucks, he’s strong on pucks, he moves his feet,” Bannister said. “Defensively, he’s been a detailed guy for an offensive guy that creates as much. He works hard on the defensive side of the puck, so I’m looking forward to seeing that here.”