The Hurricanes final roster displayed a glaring omission for most Canes fans. Prospect Julien Gauthier earned the final spot out of camp, could his designation to Charlotte cost the Hurricanes?
The Carolina Hurricanes announced their opening night roster Tuesday afternoon. This announcement came with few surprises, but one name was left out of this group that should catch the eye of the Caniacs who tuned in to the preseason action; that player is Julien Gauthier.
In many ways, Gauthier was the story of training camp. He wasn’t a free agent signee, or a recently acquired talent, but he was a near unknown to the average Canes fan. Gauthier stepped into a locker room wrought with talent and experience and made his presence known.
As a former first round pick in 2016, the Carolina front office expected the Quebec native to eventually develop into a top nine contributor for this team. Gauthier had never lived up to his billing with most. His 6’4 frame and quick shot brought comparisons to snipers like Rick Nash, a comparison that Gauthier isn’t quite ready to prove wrong; or right.
At the end of last season, Gauthier had compiled 27 goals in 41 games in the AHL, on a Charlotte team that ended the 2018-2019 season hoisting the Calder Cup. The hype that used to surround the prospect was all but gone; and at 21 years of age, there was no rush for his development.
His production last season, and his youth and potential, led Gauthier to training camp with an outside chance of a roster spot. There was the understanding that Julien would gain experience and take that with him when he returned to Charlotte for a run as defending Champions.
Gauthier answered his training camp invite with all the tenacity, drive, skill, and spirit that this team has come to be built on. There where reports of his play early in camp, but it is how he played during the preseason that should lead many of us to consider if Charlotte is where he should be starting the season.
Considering the final two preseason games, games that carry more weight as the season fast approached, Gauthier stood out. His ability to use his size, speed, strength, and skating ability to carry defenders to the net allowed fans to visualize Gauthier as an important asset to this team going forward.
This ability was seemingly unexpected, but so was the rise of Warren Foegele at the end of the Peters era, which saw him become a vital part of this group. So was the ascension of Lucas Wallmark, who has become necessary to this team’s center depth; and so was Brock McGinn, who’s sandpaper style became irreplaceable for this franchise.
This isn’t to say that Rod Brind ’Amour and Don Waddell made a mistake; those two men have more hockey knowledge in their pinky than I have in my lifetime. the question becomes, will the decision to stick with the more valuable investment, that being touted prospect Martin Necas, cost this team a chance to enhance their style that has been built around their personnel.
Both Necas and Gauthier have bright futures, and both, barring any Seattle intervention from the man who drafter these players, should be in the Hurricanes long-term plans. The mistake could be in the assumption that Necas may be ready today, whereas Gauthier is ready.
Either way, the Hurricanes are in good position heading into the 2019-2020 season. Necas will hopefully be a star, but his stardom may be delayed. Gauthier could be a very great addition to the bottom six.
The fact of the matter is that Gauthier will likely see time with the Hurricanes at some point this season; hopefully gauging who he is at this level, and allowing the front office to consider his future.
Luckily for us, whether it be Gauthier or Necas, our team is as strong as they have looked in recent memory. A dominant defense, a goaltending duo with experience and protection, and a forward group with blazing speed and incredible talent.
Buckle up Caniacs, this may be one for the books.
Question for CC Readers: Was it a mistake to send Julien Gauthier back to Charlotte?