As we continue our year-in-review series, we look at one player who is still trying to transition to a full-time role in the NHL: Frederik Gauthier.
Since being selected with the 21st overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Gauthier has not been able to put up strong scoring totals since his days in the QMJHL. This past season, he turned some heads at training camp, but with only one point through four preseason games, he failed to crack the opening night roster and would report to the Marlies for the second straight year.
He’d spend time split between the Marlies and Maple Leafs, trying to prove his worth and move up on the organization’s depth chart. However, some adversity toward the end of the season may halt his development moving forward.
Still, let’s see how he stacked up this season.
Gauthier is known for his size and two-way game, and that is the key to his success. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound centre is one of the Maple Leafs’ biggest players, and he has the ability to fill out the bottom-six. While Gauthier is able to throw his weight around and win faceoffs, the most prominent part of his game is his defensive ability.
He is a shutdown centre who has great on-ice awareness and play well at both ends of the rink. He can take good care of the puck and win battles, while also serving as an asset at even-strength and on the penalty kills. A utility player, Gauthier can bring a lot to the lineup and knows where he fits in at every level.
His shutdown mentality and solid two-way ability earned him multiple call-ups this season, especially when the Maple Leafs faced a number of injuries on the forward lines. In 21 games with Toronto, Gauthier posted 17 hits and blocks, won around 51 percent of his faceoffs and only gave away the puck three times.
The only thing in question regarding Gauthier is his ability to produce. Since his QMJHL days, Gauthier has struggled to score and contribute offensively. Though he is more focused on backchecking, he still has to contribute and put up some point totals, especially if he wants a full-time job on the Maple Leafs’ bottom-six.
In 46 games with the Marlies, he posted four goals and 13 points. While those would be solid numbers (combined with his overall play and ability) at the NHL level, he couldn’t carry the same success over to the Maple Leafs, scoring just one goal and three points through 21 NHL games.
Not to mention, though Gauthier plays a sound defensive game, he needs to work on adding more of a physical edge to his game. He has tremendous size and a perfect frame for his role, but he must add more physicality and throw more hits. If he does just that, the Maple Leafs would surely love to have him on the roster.
Early on in the Marlies’ AHL playoff run, Gauthier suffered a leg injury. He will have to miss around six months, which will keep him out of training camp and the start of the 2017-18 season.
It is unfortunate for Gauthier, who had the potential to finally bust out and earn a spot on the opening night roster next season with a spot as the fourth-line centre. Now, he will have to wait for his opportunity.
Still, considering his size, ability and determination, as well as the fact that he’s only 22 years old, Gauthier still has time to further develop his game. As long as he continues to develop int he right direction and improve in the weaker areas of his game, he’ll earn a full-time NHL gig sooner rather than later.