Leafs Play it Safe with Gauthier Pick

Justin Fisher
June 30 2013 06:47PM

With the 21st overall pick, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected the Rimouski Oceanic's Frederik Gauthier, a hulking centre with high-end defensive skills.

To be honest, it's a little underwhelming.

One can't be too upset with the Gauthier selection. It's not often a team has the opportunity to add a 6'5, 214lb shutdown centre to their stable. If anything, criticism of the pick is rooted in the notion that the Leafs played it too safe. Gauthier appeared in 62 games this past season, scoring 22 goals and 38 assists for 60 points. Not a bad stat line, but not indicative of a future point-producing juggernaut.

With players such as Hunter Shinkaruk, Adam Erne, and Andre Burakovsky still available, the Leafs left a lot of solid offensive talent on the board. 

Shinkaruk, in particular, was considered a top ten talent for much of the season, ranked fifth amongst North American Skaters by NHL Central Scouting, and scored 86 points in 64 games for Medicine Hat of the WHL. There was an opportunity to steal a potential offensive star at 21, but the Leafs decided to go in a different direction.

Gauthier ranked 22nd on Bob McKenzie's consensus list, 8th on NHL Central Scouting's North American Skaters list, and 18th on the International Scout Services list. 

There's plenty who believe Gauthier has top six forward upside, but when every single scouting report focuses on his defensive zone play and his shutdown potential, it tampers expectations. While Gauthier may never become a high-end centre that Toronto desperately needs in the system, he does provide the Leafs with depth down the middle.

Here's what scouts and scouting services are saying about Frederik Gauthier...

"When talking about Gauthier, the one word we continually go back to is intelligence… He creates many turnovers in the defensive and neutral zone with his long reach… He likes to cycle the puck in the offensive zone and protects the puck will with his body and solid hands… Gauthier is neither a dynamic playmaker nor a dangerous shooter."

- Hockey Prospect 2013 NHL Draft Black Book 

"Has some offensive talent, and shows advanced play for his age… an above-average skater, well above-average for a player his size… He had good offensive numbers this season, despite lining up against the opposition's best players and taking a lot of defensive zone draws… He will engage[…] but he will not throw his body around, and is not the meanest of players."

- Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus

"I've never seen a kid get back and play defence like he does in 20 years. In his own end, he's always around the puck."

- Chris Bordeleau, NHL Central Scouting

"[Gauthier] motor is always going and he helps down low and can be right back to create on offence. He has unbelievable hands in traffic for a guy his size and can make plays."

- David Gregory, NHL Central Scouting

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Justin Fisher is a Toronto-based writer of sorts. He likes hockey and comic books and sriracha sauce. He doesn't like Don Cherry. Follow him on Twitter: @thejustinfisher
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