Gregory Katz The Hockey Writers
Julien Gauthier: Canadiens’ Draft Radar
The Montreal Canadiens’ season hasn’t gone as planned, as the team is now more focused on the NHL draft lottery than on the NHL playoffs. The Habs’ rough season has been due to key injuries, questionable coaching, and general sub-par play. The 2016 NHL Entry Draft is just over three months away. The Canadiens will look to improve their team and gear up for a much better 2016-17 campaign – hopefully with a healthy Carey Price. The team sits 21st overall in the NHL right now, though that could obviously change as the season closes out. If there are no surprises at the draft lottery, the Habs should expect to pick around 8-12 overall, which would land them a very solid prospect. There’s one prospect in particular that should stick out to the Canadiens, and that is 18-year-old Julien Gauthier. The Quebec native plays for the Val d’Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, where he has 54 points through 48 games thus far this season. This article will discuss why Gauthier and the Montreal Canadiens may be a match made in heaven.
Gauthier Has What Montreal Desperately Needs
Gauthier is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, and he weighs 224 pounds. Is there anything else that needs to be said about how he fits the Canadiens’s needs? Oh yeah, he can also score – and his 40 goals this season prove that. The power-forward has been a force for his team in the QMJHL this season, averaging over a point per game. Through his QMJHL career, Gauthier has recorded 156 points through 178 games. Other than Michael McCarron, the Habs are lacking size in their prospect pool. The other notable Canadiens’ forward prospects are Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon, and Nikita Scherbak. Andrighetto is 5’10, 187, Hudon is 5’10, 195, and Scherbak is 6’2, 190. While Scherbak is fairly tall, the three prospects could use some extra weight before becoming full-time NHL’ers. It’d be nice to see a big, young, power-forward like Gauthier join the mix – and give the future Canadiens’ some extra size and scoring.
If the Canadiens are to stock up on these big, powerful forwards like McCarron and Gauthier, they’ll essentially model themselves after the western conference powerhouse, Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are notoriously hard to play against due to their group of big, strong forwards. They play an aggressive forechecking style of hockey, which forces opposing teams’ defencemen to make plays quicker than they’d like. On top of this smothering forecheck, they make life very hard for opposing goalies, as they don’t shy away from creating havoc in the crease. Adding a player like Gauthier would give the future Canadiens a much more intimidating look. The Habs have scored 174 goals through 66 games this season, which averages out to 2.63 goals per game. The team could definitely use a goal scoring boost, and adding a prospect like Gauthier would help solve this problem.
The Best Option Available
The teams that currently sit below the Canadiens in the standings will likely stay there as the season comes to an end. It’ll be hard for the Habs to fall into the bottom-five of the NHL, though the draft lottery could always bring surprises. Assuming that the Canadiens get to pick around number 10 (which is around where they’d pick if the draft was today), they’ll have to take a serious look at Gauthier. According to Bob McKenzie’s mid-season draft rankings, the Quebec native will most-likely get selected around number 10. As mentioned earlier, Gauthier has the size that the Habs are looking to add, and in addition, he has the scoring touch that the team has missed this season. Gauthier could potentially slot into the Canadiens right side, where they are in need of depth, size, and scoring.
According to multiple sources, Gauthier is strong, and surprisingly explosive on the ice. Normally, the bigger players are a little bit slower, but this player is said to have extremely impressive speed for his size. He knows how to score goals, since he isn’t afraid to get to the dirty areas on the ice and use his size to his advantage. Though bigger forwards are said to be more one-dimensional in terms of offence, Gauthier is known for having the skills that truly make him a dynamic offensive force. According to EliteProspects, Gauthier draws comparisons to New York Rangers’ forward, Rick Nash. Not bad, eh?
The more video I watch of Julien Gauthier, the more I like. Combination of size (6'4, 222lbs), speed and pure scoring ability is rare #QMJHL
— NHL Prospects Watch (@Prospects_Watch) January 26, 2016
Some Habs fans may be critical of their team targeting a Quebecois prospect, as it is believed that the team handicaps themselves by choosing Quebecois players and coaches rather than the best options available. What these fans have to realize, is that Gauthier perfectly fits the Canadiens’ needs. The team that has struggled to score will continue to look for raw scoring ability as well as size at this year’s draft. Gauthier provides exactly that, and in addition, he is Quebecois. The fact that he speaks French and that he grew up only about a half hour away from the Bell Centre is just a bonus.
As the season comes to a close, this match made in heaven becomes more of a reality for Canadiens’ GM, Marc Bergevin. The NHL Entry Draft takes place in Buffalo on June 24th and 25th. The Canadiens will look to select a group of prospects that will ensure that a season like this one will be quickly forgotten. Though a lot could change between now and June, one certainty is that Julien Gauthier would look good in the bleu-blanc-rouge.
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