The Leafs opted for size and two-way ability down the middle at 21st overall, drafting a 6’5, 214-pounder out of Quebec in Frederik Gauthier. As a player who “needs to work on his offensive game” and who was under a PPG in the Q (worth noting that he broke his jaw during the season), this pick may be a little on the safe side compared to say, the higher offensive ceiling of Hunter Shinkaruk (who slid down and was available at 21). That said, there’s no denying the value of a good centerman and the need for depth at the position. How you feel about this selection depends on whether you like the late-first-round approach of safer picks with strong fundamentals or if you would prefer to role the dice a little on higher upside.
Profile after the jump.
From Alex Tran:
“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 this organization.”
NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau raves about Gauthier’s defensive acumen:
A bit old, but here’s a short highlight package:
From McKeen’s Draft Guide:
“Rescued his plummeting stock with a strong performance while winning gold for Team Canada at the U18 Worlds (7-1-3-4) .. soared initially in his QMJHL debut (18-10-10-20), but sagged after returning from a November broken jaw that required surgery .. scored 12 times in his final 50 games including playoffs (6-0-2-2) .. his defensive efforts were evident throughout however, reflected in a plus-22 rating, second-best on Rimouski .. named to the QMJHL All Rookie Team .. led College Esther-Blondin to a QAAA title in `11-12 – earning MVP honours – and passing on a commitment to Harvard University ..
SCOUTING REPORT .. diligent, hard-working pivot with imposing size and speed .. light and agile, graceful in cuts and turns .. can add a quicker startup and acceleration burst – to a stride that possesses good inherent length and thrust .. a menace off the rush once his excellent top gear is fully engaged .. drives at defenders and challenges 1-on-1, exploiting a sharp diagonal cut that highlights striking speed and lateral agility for a big man .. unleashes a smooth, hard wristshot in full flight .. multi-purpose type .. dedicated defensive soldier – hustles to get back in proper lanes and close gaps, exploiting a gull-like wingspan .. sacrifices himself making plays in the hard areas .. developing as a playmaker .. moves the puck confidently – shows skill receiving pucks and making passes .. not a pure talent in terms of stickhandling and in-close finesse skills .. can refine puckhandling in tight quarters – shows too much of the puck .. can get much stronger as his ‘specimen’ frame is still relatively lean .. developing his awareness and expanding his field of vision will be critical areas .. plays with blinders on – fixates and gravitates to the puck .. benefits greatly by being a meaner physical presence – and has demonstrated a capacity to aggressively use his size to create space.”
Additional reading: Gauthier plays all-round game well beyond his years.
Dave Nonis says Gauthier projects as a second, but more likely, third-line centre.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) June 30, 2013
Craig Button has this to say about Frederic Gauthier:
Craig Button: I have watched Frederik for almost 2 years now and he has always impressed me. He played midget last season (His team lost in the TELUS CUP Midget Championship to Red Deer in an epic final) because he was considering going the NCAA route and was conditionally granted acceptance to Harvard University. He’s big, he’s smart and he may not run you over but he asserts with his size & takes advantage. he is a strong two-way player who plays all situations. he reminds me of Keith Primeau. He has not come out of nowhere, you just haven’t heard of him because he wasn’t on a ‘mainstream’ radar. Centers like him are rare and I have no doubt that he could be a top 10 player before long. Different player than Huberdeau but similar scenario as you point out.