In continuation of the series on 2016 draft-eligible players, we turn to the QMJHL.
Weight: 225 lbs
Team (League): Val-d'Or Foreurs (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League)
ISS rank: 10
CSS rank: A (no rankings released)
FC rank: 6
THN rank: NA
DTJ rank: 6
Current Statline for 2015-2016 Season: 30 GP, 29G 8A 37P 16PIM, +17, 1.23 Points/Game
Julien Gauthier was the only draft-eligible player to make the Team Canada World Junior Championship squad this year. He's one of my favorite players in this draft class.
Not sure where to really start with Gauthier in terms of an analysis. He's a huge power-winger with an incredible knack for scoring goals. He's very NHL-ready, and not simply because of his size. He plays a very strong physical game, protects the puck well, and has a significant net front presence. He's able to use his long reach to his advantage in these categories, which makes it even more difficult to contain him. His skating is excellent and his shot is incredible.
Gauthier's vision in the offensive zone is phenomenal and he drives to the net with great ease. I think the potential for even more offensive performance is there because Gauthier plays on a very deep Val-d'Or team, and as a result, doesn't get top-line minutes. In my mind, this makes him a good candidate for a breakout in points if he is able to get consistent minutes on the top-line. Despite that, Gauthier has been playing significant time in all situations. He's able to create offense while on the penalty kill and also plays a significant portion of time in front of the net on the power play.
All in all, Gauthier is a remarkably complete player. His stick-work and positioning is excellent. I think the potential is there to become a very solid top-6 power forward. His style of play reminds me a lot of James Neal. Defensively I'd like to see Gauthier improve his positioning in his own zone. Sometimes he gets caught staring at the puck and is not aware of situation awareness when it comes to opposing players in "high-danger zones". He isn't lacking in a defensive awareness type, but these are things that will most likely come with further experience. Gauthier's play has improved significantly since last season where he was almost pidgeon-holed into a "one-dimensional" player category. His play and improvement this season have proven that to be wrong, however there is still room for improvement in the two-way game.
The combination of Gauthier's size and speed make him very hard to contain at top speed. What impresses me about him is how good he is in the corners and along the boards. He's not just big and strong, he positions himself well, and that's an aspect of his game that will be vital to being an effective power forward at the NHL level. His rocket of a shot will only improve and it will prove to be a very valuable asset to NHL teams at the draft, especially as teams are looking to bolster goal scoring. Gauthier is a very strong prospect and will go Top-10 in my opinion. He has the potential to go anywhere from 4th to 9th overall. There may still be consistency issues, but when Gauthier is on top of his game, he's a relentless, hard working, and full of heart power winger with a brilliant scoring touch. Despite not playing center, Gauthier plays a strong winger's game and is the type of player who you can build a championship around.
From a Devils perspective, Gauthier would be a remarkable addition to the team. He may even be able to step into the NHL as soon as next season, however that will be up to whoever is lucky enough to draft him. I'm of the opinion that it's better to "over-cook" a prospect in junior or development leagues than it is to bring them up too soon. He fits into the Devils' gameplan very well and will really bring a strong goal-scoring winger to the Devils, who currently sit at 29th overall in goals/game this season (only Anaheim is scoring less this season).
I am very interested in following the rest of Gauthier's season in Val-d'Or, and I hope he can continue to develop into the elite, offensive power winger he has the potential to be. I hope you enjoyed my write-up of Julien Gauthier! If you have any feedback, suggestions, or players you’d like to see my write about, please let me know!
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Thanks for reading!