With the departure of Tyler Biggs this summer it seems that
Frederik Gauthier is in prime position to assume Bigg’s role as the whipping boy
of Leafs prospects. There’s part of me that agrees with this as there are
limitations to Gauthier’s game, and I can’t get over that “he’s not who I
would’ve picked” in the draft.
On the other hand, who I would’ve picked doesn’t really
matter, and what Gauthier does, which is play responsible hockey, he’s done
very well at in the junior ranks, but with the speed and size of his
competition about to increase it will be interesting to see what Gauthier’s first
pro season will look like.
Gauthier has been taking a slow march back in the TLN
Prospect Rankings. He initially debuted at #3 in 2013, and slide to 9th
last season, before rebounding to 6th in our midseason ranking. Now
here he is at 12th buried under a mountain of new found organizational
Name: Frederik Gautheir
Hometown: Laval, Quebec
Size: 6’4″, 214 lbs
2015 Team: Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Acquired: Drafted, 1st Round, 21st Overall in 2013
In 2014-15 Frederik Gauthier finished the year 68th
overall in QMJHL scoring. Injuries played a factor, but still not exactly what you’d hope for in a Draft+2 season. Gauthier is continuing his slow decline in the offensive production
department, though that’s not what got him drafted.
Of the 16 assists he had in his 37 games, 12 of them were
primary assists (numbers as per CHLStats.com), some competency showing with
puck distribution and his .332 Goals created per game is respectable for a guy
who will likely not be a primary source of offence at the next level.
Of course what Gauthier is known for is his defensive game,
and that’s what once again earned him a spot on the Canadian World Junior Team.
Often Gauthier was relied on for defensive zone faceoffs (he had a 54% win
record in the QMJHL last season), and was also a frequent penalty killer.
Rimouski’s strong collection of overagers, including
Gauthier, helped carry them to a QMJHL championship and Memorial Cup
appearance. And while Gauthier lining up against the best of the CHL and not
looking out of place is encouraging, being two years removed from his draft
it’s also expected and it’s still reasonable to pine for some offense at this
level as well.
Cordell tracked Gauthier for a couple of his Memorial Cup games and
confirmed what we already knew, that Gauthier was used primarily in defensive
situations, and unfortunately against the top junior competition, Gauthier’s
possession numbers suffered.
Gauthier closed out his junior career by winning the Guy
Carbonneau Trophy for best defensive forward in the QMJHL, so at least at a
junior level he’s one of the best you can get at the role he’ll be filling.
Former first-round pick Frederik Gauthier has been somewhat stagnant as a prospect after being taken at No. 21 overall in 2013. He’s big, and has improved his skating, with his mainstays being his great checking and faceoff abilities. I once envisioned a player with average offensive upside combined with high-end defensive skills when he was an under-18 player, but that reality is starting to look pretty unlikely, given his lack of development offensively during the past two years.
Gauthier is about to enter his first professional season and
with organizational depth it remains to be seen if that will be with the
Marlies or with the Solar Bears. As a former first round pick you’d hope to see
Gauthier have a strong enough camp that he can avoid the ECHL, but with a front
office not tied to his selection he won’t be done any favours and Froese,
Nylander, and Carrick are the likely owners of the top three center roles.
Development under Keefe would be beneficial for Gauthier, as
Keefe has excelled in working with other two way centers like Jared McCann and
Blake Speers and with Gauthier coming from the top possession team in the QMJHL
to a possession driven system under Dubas and Keefe, you’d assume he’d be in a
position to excel.
Reporter Kyle Cicerella sees an ECHL assignment as the most probable
“Despite being a first-round pick, it’s more than possible
to see Gauthier on a line with Clapperton playing for the
ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears to open the campaign rather than with the Marlies.
Toronto currently has an abundance of
forwards under contract that are expected to play at the minor-league
level and according to assistant general manager Kyle Dubas, rookies ideally
will start at the bottom and work their way up.”
Christopher Clapperton is a former Rimouski teammate signed
to an AHL deal, and could help ease the transition to pro for Gauthier.
It’s hard not be underwhelmed by a former first round pick
that seems to be on their way to the ECHL. Gauthier’s lack of offence and less
than stellar skating seem to have him locked in on taking the long path to the
While Gauthier has been making a name for himself as a
defensive forward it remains ridiculous to compare him to strong two way
players like Patrice Bergeron, Ryan O’Reilly, and others. Gauthier may turn
into a strong defensive forward at the pro level but let’s dial it back to more
reasonable comparisons like Manny Malhotra in his prime, or if we’re truly
lucky, Peter Zezel.
Gauthier’s biggest selling point seems to be the intrigue of
how he may fit into what the Leafs are hoping to achieve. The long development
curve the Leafs want to apply to prospects seems tailored for a guy like
Gauthier, and since he’s always been labeled as someone with a high hockey IQ,
it will be interesting to see if he excels in the Keefe and Babcock systems.