On Feb. 18, 2020, the New York Rangers dealt defenseman Joey Keane to the Carolina Hurricanes for Julien Gauthier. Before hockey and the rest of the world came to a grinding halt because of COVID-19, Gauthier played 12 games with the Rangers. In those 12 games the big forward picked up two assists, put nine shots on goal, and averaged 8:38 TOI/GP.
Of course, the biggest moment of Gauthier’s dozen games with the Rangers thus far was his penalty shot against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 22.
Besides that penalty shot, Gauthier hasn’t made much of an impression outside a primary assist picked up at 5-on-5. But, that isn’t exactly surprising considering the scant amount of ice time he saw and who he was playing with. Per naturalstattrick.com, Gauthier’s most frequent linemates at 5-on-5 were Brendan Lemieux (63:18) and Greg McKegg (43:51), followed by Brett Howden (38:40).
Not exactly the best centers for a young power forward with offensive upside to work with.
Back in October, many were surprised when Gauthier didn’t make the Hurricanes’ NHL roster out of camp. Carolina, flush with forward depth, didn’t have a spot for him. But that doesn’t mean that they were low on Gauthier.
“His confidence is there,” Rod Brind’Amour told the Athletic’s Sara Civian back in September. “The strength is there. He’s a bull out there, and he’s got good hands around the net. He’s not afraid to take it to the net. He’s that power forward. If we can work on some other things to help him get to this level, that’s obviously the goal.”
Many of the things I want to point out about Gauthier were already penned by Adam just after the Rangers acquired him, so I encourage you to read his piece from February. One of the things noted by Adam, Sara Civian, and others is Gauthier’s goal production in the AHL.
Over the last two seasons, Gauthier ranks seventh among AHL skaters who played in at least 100 games in EV G/GP (0.29). Even more importantly, he leads all players under the age of 24 in that group. There’s not much in the data that suggests he is much of a playmaker, but his horsepower and ability to finish makes him an exciting young forward that could provide scoring depth for the Rangers for years.
Teams will have mini training camps before hockey resumes. When (and if) that training camp kicks off, it should be advantageous for a young player like Gauthier. It represents a unique opportunity to make a second first impression on head coach David Quinn and the rest of the coaching staff. If everyone is starting at square one, Gauthier has the potential to turn some heads and carve out a bigger role for himself.