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2020 Report Card: Julien Gauthier

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Is 12 games a large enough sample size to grade a 22-year-old rookie?

NHL: New York Rangers at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations

When the New York Rangers acquired Julien Gauthier from the Carolina Hurricanes on Feb. 18, 2020, they acquired a young winger who could add some much-needed depth scoring in the near future. The cost to bring Gauthier to New York was defensive prospect Joey Keane, who was tearing it up in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. As Blueshirt Banter’s Adam Herman wrote after the deal, “Rarely do teams exchange thriving prospects like this.”

Gauthier had 26 goals in 44 games with the Charlotte Checkers in 2019-20 before the trade. Granted, he was shooting at 20.6 percent, but he was averaging 2.8 SOG/GP and scored 17 of his goals at evens. It’s also important to mention that he buried 27 goals in 75 games with the Checkers in 2018-19, so this production didn’t come out of the blue. Gauthier, a 6-foot-4 freight train on skates with a powerful stride, was the 21st pick of the 2016 Draft because he has the potential to develop into the kind of player who could dominate players with his speed and power.

So, the Rangers dealt from a position of strength — an abundance of young right-handed defenders — to address an area of need. Gauthier was brought in to add potential offense in the form of a player who could establish himself as a middle-six winger. But no one was really expecting that to happen this year. After all, the trade was made about three-fourths of the way through the season and, prior to joining the Rangers, he had five games of NHL experience.

Performance

For Gauthier, this all comes down to opportunity and a sample size of just 12 regular season games.

In those dozen appearances, Gauthier had 10 SOG — including a penalty shot against the San Jose Sharks — and his only points were three assists. He averaged 8:39 TOI/GP and his most frequent linemates at 5-on-5 were Brendan Lemieux (63:18) and Greg McKegg (43:51). What, if anything, can we glean from a 12-game sample and linemates like those? Well, not a whole bunch, but damn was he fun to watch when he was on the ice.

Due in no small part to who he played with and a lack of NHL experience, Gauthier’s underlying numbers with the Rangers left plenty to be desired. In the 12 games he played with the Rangers, he ranked 10th among Rangers forwards in Rel xGF% ahead of Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Brett Howden. Yeah, things were rough for the kids who were in the bottom-six.

Overall, there was a lot to like from the very little we saw of Gauthier before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the regular season. One can imagine that he would have shown more flashes of the player he might become if he had different linemates. But it wasn’t surprising that David Quinn had him playing behind Jesper Fast, Pavel Buchnevich, and Kaapo Kakko. Remember, when he joined the team the Rangers were in the hunt for a Wild Card spot and he was an unknown element to the coaching staff.

Grade: INC

Banter Consensus: B-

Twelve games just wasn’t enough for me, but a few other Banter contributors weighed in and slapped a “B-” on Gauthier, which is fine.

Gauthier is a player worth getting excited about — if you’re the type of person who gets excited about a third-line winger who can do a Rick Nash impersonation by using his powerful stride to separate from a defender and then shielding the puck with his big frame. If you’re not into that, I don’t really know what to say to you. Big guys who can fly into the offensive zone like a greased-up dump truck sliding down an icy mountain slope are fun to watch.

It’s far too early to make a call on what Gauthier is capable of developing into, but it goes without saying that the 2020-21 campaign will be a big one for him. He has to prove that he’s capable of sticking around at this level and that the whole of his game is at least equal to the sum of its parts.


Data courtesy of AHLtracker.com and Natural Stat Trick