TLN Top Twenty Prospects: No. 3 – Frederik Gauthier

Name: Frederik Gautheir
Position: Centre   
Hometown: Laval, Quebec
Size: 6’5", 214 lbs
2013 Team: Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round, 21st Overall in 2013

(Photo: http://www.oceanic.qc.ca/)

Frederik Gauthier – the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first round selection, 22nd overall in June’s NHL Entry Draft – was the definition of a safe pick.

Gauthier put up solid numbers in his QMJHL rookie season, scoring 22 goals and 60 points in 62 games. Still, it seems like point production often takes a back seat to defensive play and face-off ability when talking about the 6’5 centre. 

Very few high-end, impact forwards in the NHL list ‘defence’ as their calling card. That’s partly why expectations have already been set relatively low for a first round pick. No one will say they don’t like having a big, strong, steady centre in the organization, but a few might have preferred the Leafs take a chance on a more offensively inclined youngster in Gauthier’s place. 

For instance, Andre Burakovsky (WSH), Hunter Shinkaruk (VAN), Valentin Zykov (LAK) and Nicolas Petan (WPG) were all selected shortly after Gauthier. All were known for offensive skill and impressively high points totals.

So why is it that the Leafs have trended towards ‘safe’ picks in recent years, a la Gauthier, Tyler Biggs, and Stuart Percy? Michael Traikos of the National Post has a theory…

"The Leafs are not interested in trying to hit for the fences with their picks. Instead, they tend to choose prospects that might have a lower ceiling but are more likely to become NHL players. It is a strategy that might product four bottom-six forwards rather than one top-six forward, but the Leafs believe there is strength in numbers."

It makes sense, in that one middling NHL player is better than any number of busts. In all honesty, it might be the smartest way to go unless you’re picking much higher in the draft, where there’s a little more certainty in how much a player’s offence will progress.

Circling back around, Gauthier’s lack of an offensive track record isn’t lost on Leafs staff. As Marlies head coach Steve Spott explained during Toronto’s recent rookie tournament…

"For Fred, it’s going to be an adjustment. He’s going to have to find a way to create some offence… We know how good he is defensively. I think there’s more there. He just has to push himself harder to do it."

It’s not hard to imagine Gauthier becoming a point-per-game-plus player with Rimouski next season. In fact, it would be a disappointment if he wasn’t. Whether that offense translates into the NHL will be the difference between a very big, very useful, second line center, or a third line defensive and penalty kill specialist.

As valuable as those third liners are to NHL teams, I can’t help but feel the Gauthier pick will be seen as a little disappointing if he doesn’t develop an offensive game.

Previously on TLN Prospects

  • Citizen David

    I didn’t like Gauthier going into the draft. I didn’t know he existed until Bob Mackenzie’s January draft ranking. Gauthier looked very good. A 6’5” center who’s stat’s line was GP 43 G 16 A 35 P 51 +24. I then proceeded to follow his progress. And it was bad. After that Ranking Gauthier finished the season GP 19 G 6 A 3 P 9 -2. In the Playoffs he went GP 6 G 0 A 2 P 2 +1

    He also had a high shooting percentage 18.5%

    Not sold on him but since the Leafs drafted him I’m cheering for him.

  • The dip in production late in the season doesn’t really bother me. For one, it’s not unusual for rookies to go through dry spells… his just happened to come at the end of the season, and I don’t think that says a lot.

    Secondly, this was the first time in Gauthier’s career that he played more than 39 games in a season. Especially for a player who’s not used to playing 60+ games (and international events), it’s likely Gauthier was just running out of gas.

    As for the shooting percentage… 18.5% doesn’t appear to be all that high in the QMJHL. Definitely high by NHL standards, but Mantha (15.5%), Poirier (16.9%) and Drouin (23.7%) all had high shooting percentages too. Gauthier doesn’t appear to be dramatically outside the norm.

    I’m not sold on his offensive game yet, but we’ve got such a small sample size to work with that getting worried about it now is premature. We’ll have a much better data set to work with this time next year.