The Carolina Hurricanes went for size with their second pick of Friday's first round of the NHL Draft, selecting right wing Julien Gauthier from the Val-d'Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Gauthier, who scored 41 goals in 54 games this past season, is a 6'4" forward who Bob McKenzie described as next to impossible to move from the front of the net.
Gauthier, the nephew of former NHL defenseman Denis Gauthier - a first-round pick himself in 1995 - is the first player from the Quebec league the Canes have spent a first round pick on since selecting Phillippe Paradis 27th overall in 2009.
Speaking to Kathryn Tappen of NBCSN, general manager Ron Francis said that Gauthier's skating and goal-scoring prowess were appealing to the Hurricanes. "He is big enough to have an immediate impact," Francis said. "We'll see how things play out in development camp and training camp. Physically, he's big enough, and he skates well enough."
With Kieffer Bellows off the board, taken two picks before Carolina by the New York Islanders, the Canes faced a decision between Gauthier and London Knights left wing Max Jones. They went with Gauthier, who finished the season tied for sixth in the QMJHL in goals, seven behind league leader and future teammate Nicolas Roy.
Some thoughts on Gauthier:
An explosive power forward who boasts an elite-level skill package. Takes nothing for granted and plays with hard-nosed work ethic. Tremendous vision and outstanding hockey sense; thrives under pressure and doesn't stray from the high-percentage play. Willingness to play physical and win battles in his own end makes him a vital asset, stepping up at the game's key moments. Exceptional skating ability allows him to stay with, if not ahead, of each unfolding play. Refined puckhandling skills allow him to maintain puck control at breakneck speeds. All-in-all, a prolific scorer whose attitude and innate abilities will constantly propel him into dominance.
Gauthier plays a smart, mature game, and it’s obvious from watching him move around the ice that he knows the tools that will get him to the National Hockey League. An aspiring power forward, he has impressive speed and acceleration on his skates for a player of his size, and once he’s up to speed he’s really difficult to stop. He’s basically a freight train once he gets going, and he’s able to drive the net and create havoc for the opposition. That said, his skill game has arguably not yet caught up to his physical development. His offensive game is a bit overly dependent on getting chances in-close, and he could arguably use his teammates a bit better in terms of distributing the puck a bit. He was said to show some really good skill at lower levels of hockey, so the abilities are there, he just needs to use them more often.
Red Line Report:
Humongous horse who is also a pure sniper. Excellent finisher who can score in variety of ways. Dangerous on the powerplay where he parks his huge body in front and bangs home loose pucks. Can also cash in on one-timers from the circle. Best part of his game is to use huge frame to gain position in offensive zone or win loose pucks. Will go hard to front of the net and score dirty goals. Deceptive speed and acceleration for big man. Long, fluid stride can beat defenders. Extremely soft hands for big man. He is more of a complimentary piece on offense in that he needs a center that can carry the puck and feed him. Vision and playmaking ability is sub-par. Hockey sense is questionable. Plays big but is not necessarily a big hitter.