Carolina Hurricanes: Gauthier Eyeing a Roster Spot

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Carolina Hurricanes right wing Julien Gauthier (44) skates during the NHL Preseason game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning on September 17, 2019 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Carolina Hurricanes right wing Julien Gauthier (44) skates during the NHL Preseason game between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning on September 17, 2019 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Off to a strong start in training camp, Julien Gauthier is making a serious push for a spot on the Carolina Hurricanes’ opening night roster.

When he was originally drafted 21st overall by the Carolina Hurricanes back in the 2016 NHL entry draft, with a pick previously acquired from the Los Angeles Kings, it was known that Julien Gauthier was going to be a project. Now, with two full seasons in the AHL under his belt, Gauthier could be on the cusp of making his NHL debut as soon as opening night.

Praised in his draft year for both his size and strength around the net and an outstanding wrist shot, some scouts were concerned that Gauthier had tunnel vision and was a bit one dimensional with teammate utilization. Even with this in mind, given time to properly develop, the potential of an elite NHL power forward late in the first round was too good for the Carolina Hurricanes to pass up.

Putting up 41 goals in 54 games in 2015-16 with Val-d’Or Foreurs it was clear that the Hurricanes were getting a player who can score at an elite rate. When the Hurricanes returned him to juniors the next season his goal total saw a stark decline, down to just 17 in 43 games played, while his assists total more than doubled, 16 to 34. This shift is point production showed that Gauthier was committed to using his teammates more, improving his all around play.

In his 2016-17 QMJHL campaign, Gauthier split the season with Val-d’Or and Saint Johns. In the playoffs, along with fellow Hurricanes prospect Callum Booth and Spencer Smallman,  Julien showed the type of player he’s capable of becoming. Appearing in 16 games he would end up scoring 11 goals while adding 6 assists for 17 points in route to a QMJHL title with the Sea Dogs.

In his rookie year in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers, Gauthier posted 25 points in 65 games, 16 goals and 9 assists, while providing a physical presence on the ice. Last season, in addition to improving his play away from the puck, he saw his point total climb to 41, 27 goals and 14 assists, in 75 games. Thus far in training camp it has been evident that Gauthier is not only on track with his development but has a legitimate chance to make the Carolina Hurricanes’ opening night roster.

With the losses of Micheal Ferland and Saku Maenalanen the Hurricanes could really use someone who isn’t afraid to lay the body. Listed at 6’4”, the 21 year old, known to his teammates as “The Goat,” was physically ready to play in the NHL the year he was drafted. Should he make then team he would go a long way in adding some sandpaper and grit upfront.

Another thing Gauthier has going for him is the fact that he is a right shot, something the Carolina Hurricanes’ offense currently lacks now that Justin Williams is taking a break from professional hockey. While many fans have long speculated that Martin Necas was likely the man to earn Williams’ spot in the line up, it looks as if Julien has done more to catch the attention of the coaching staff, being the only player to appear in all three preseason games thus far, certainly earning an extended look from the big club.

In the three preseason games he has appeared in he hasn’t looked a bit out of place. Playing with the likes of Janne Kuokkanen, Eetu Luostarinen, Steven Lorentz and Clark Bishop in a home and home with Tampa, Gauthier provided the physicality and grit you’d want to see from him. With each and every shift he looked like a determined player out to prove he belonged in NHL.

In game two, his size and strength was noticeable as he drove a puck to the net hard before Lorentz poked it home. This is something he did often in the American Hockey League and you’d hope would translate to the next level. Known for his hands in tight, Gauthier would be a welcome addition and an instant fan favorite for his willingness to go to the “dirty areas” alone.

Game 3 was the first time his linemates were established NHL players. Playing with Brock McGinn and Lucas Wallmark it became apparent that the organization has liked his performance up this point. It didn’t take long for his presence it to be known. After lying a massive hit on the Capitals’ Gersich, Gauthier maneuvered himself through the Caps defense only getting bested of a highlight reel goal by the post. In the third period his improved play away from the puck was on display when he caused the turnover that directly led to McGinn’s goal.

With the expanded ice time and few shifts on the power play, it is safe to say Gauthier continued to impress. Although they suffered their first loss of the preseason, Gauthier continued to stand out and his hands were all over the game. Right now it looks as if he has a legitimate chance at making the Hurricanes opening night roster. However, should he for whatever reason fail to make the team, it is highly likely that he’ll play in his first NHL game some point this season.

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How do you think Gauthier will perform in his rookie year should he solidify a full time NHL roster spot with the Carolina Hurricanes this season?