As the playoffs head into their final weeks, it’s become clear once again that size does matter. The ability to win battles along the boards, play a punishing physical game and own the front of the net has allowed the Boston Bruins to steamroll through the New York Rangers and now the Pittsburgh Penguins. I have no doubt that Maple Leafs is paying close attention and is eagerly counting down the days until the likes of Joe Colborne and Tyler Biggs are ready to suit up for the club on a full-time basis. Should they so choose, there may an opportunity to add even more size up front with their 21st overall selection this June. Next up in our 2013 NHL Draft Series is the powerful two-way centre out of Rimouski, Frederik Gauthier.

Frederik Gauthier – Centre/Winger, Rimouski Oceanic – Projected 15th – 25th overall

The 6’4 215 lb Gauthier burst onto the scene this year with an impressive rookie campaign in the QMJHL where he surprised scouts by displaying a relatively advanced and polished game for a young player still growing into his body. The talented centreman has drawn comparisons to the likes of Sean Couturier for his impressive defensive instincts and commitment to strong positional play. Gauthier does the little things quite well – realizing when to hold back and cover a pinching defenseman, pushing hard to back-check on the high man during an odd man rush and completing the chips along the boards to get the puck out. He excels in the role of the second forward into the corners for support (much like Jay McClement).  Rimouski relied heavily on Gauthier in key late-game situations, as the youngster led all rookie centreman in faceoff attempts (albeit at a 47% success rate – a number that still needs to improve). Offensively, Gauthier displays a promising  scorer’s skillset with the ability to find pucks in traffic and finish in tight around the net. The playmaking instincts and passing ability have a chance to be above average while his skating ability already grades out as above average for a player his size. While the hulking forward can certainly hold his own in high traffic areas, he lacks the raw “nastiness” and punishing physicality of a Tyler Biggs or Milan Lucic.

Gauthier possesses the complete package of skills to be a a very effective NHL player. He started off the QMJHL campaign on an absolute tear offensively before fatigue and oppositional adjustments slowed him down. What will ultimately determine his ceiling is where you think his offensive ability eventually grades out. Is he a Paul Gaustad type – a highly effective defensive player in a 3rd line role? Or is he a David Backes type – capable of a 1st/2nd line role on a very good team? It’s tough to say at this point because the sample size is so small and the trajectories of power forwards is so unpredictable but I’m optimistic and will tend toward the latter. His size, strength and well-rounded game could see him ascend very quickly through an organization.

A bit old, but here’s a short highlight package: