Frederik Gauthier has been a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization since being selected 21st overall in the 2013 draft by then General Manager Brian Burke. Over the past six years Gauthier has played 107 NHL games with the majority - 70 - coming last season; his first full year in the NHL.
His inclusion on this list surprised a lot of the staff here once the final votes were counted. Flaws in the vote counting were pointed out - getting a vote of any placement holds more weight than not being ranked - and his inclusion at all over players like Mikhail Abramov and Dmytro Timashov was a topic of debate.
Kevin: I’m not sure how Gauthier ended up on this list, but I will say that he outperformed my expectations this year. He was a good fit next to small but offensively-talented forwards like Tyler Ennis and Trevor Moore, where there was plenty of scoring talent around him. It looks like he’ll be passed in the depth chart by Jason Spezza and Nick Shore, and he won’t be much of a scorer even if he gets sent to the Marlies. Ultimately, it seems like you can find this type of player in free agency every year for the league minimum, so he did not make my list as a result.
However, like it or not, enough people thought to give Gauthier a late vote for his first NHL season, and that was enough to give him an edge over the younger players.
How was his first full NHL season?
Gauthier managed to score three goals and add eleven assists for 14 points over 70 games. He averaged 8:22 of ice time per game and only took 46 shots over the course of the season. The vast majority of that time was at even strength, with only 13 minutes of short handed time and 2:07 of power play time all season. With an average of just 41 seconds per shift his role has been more about giving the other centres a break during the game than anything else.
Is there anything more he could have done with his time out there?
For sure. He’s a big player, and not a great skater, so he could be a more physical player out there, but he doesn’t seem to use his size to his advantage very much. He throws about one hit per game, and while that isn’t something we usually brag about anymore, it could be done a bit more. If you’re going to have big players on your fourth line, you would usually expect them to use that size and make life miserable for opponents.
Species: Gauthier is still great at bullying his way with the puck through opposing defence all the way through the attacking zone. It’s a great skill, and one you expect a big guy like Gauthier to have. The problem is, after he does that, he looks completely lost as to what to do next. He carries the puck along the boards all the way down behind the net and then… turns it over to the opposing team. It’s not a terrible thing. He eats up 12 or 15 seconds every time he does that, which is something you want from a fourth liner, but after two years there’s still nothing more than that.
What about next year?
Well, that’s a tricky thing. Alex Kerfoot and Jason Spezza have joined the team and they’ve played time at centre. If Kerfoot playes 3C, then Spezza could kick Gauthier out to the press box and take the 4C role. At his age, 10 minutes a night could be perfect for him. He had almost double Gauthier’s points (8G - 19A - 27Pts) in a couple minutes more per game (13:16). If you want your fourth line to become more than just a breather for the rest of the lines, Spezza could be the better choice.
Or, they split the role and each player takes fewer games next year while staying more spry in case they need to jump up to 3C.
If Spezza starts at 3C, Gauthier has competition waiting in the wings from Marlies and other free agents as well. Adam Brooks, Nick Shore, Kalle Kossila, Tyler Gaudet will all be fighting for a pressbox or fourth line role with the team as well as any players who get invited to camp on a try-out agreement,
Hardev: Kudos to the Goat for playing a role that Babcock wanted out of his fourth line. He killed high-event hockey eight minutes at a time and he should be proud of that. But this summer the Leafs have an army of better options who can actually win faceoffs and penalty kill, so it looks like the Year of the Goat has come to an end. He’ll either play on the Marlies, sit in the press box as cheap depth, or get sent to a different farm. He won’t help the Leafs so that’s why he was off my ballot.
There was a pattern in my Connor Brown top 25 posts every year where Brown is, to quote brain-care specialist Gag Halfrun, just this guy, you know? Not a flashy player, not someone you look at and demand stays with your team, but is replaceable and fills a role.
That’s Gauthier. He’s out on the ice for less than a minute while the real players go off to sit for a bit before jumping the boards and getting back onto the ice.
Will Scouch of Scouching.com agrees:
The guy has come such a long way from draft time and actually made the NHL, but yeah, not sure he factors into this team or list. He’s a guy.
This is his final year eligible for the Top 25, and it’s best he goes out like he came in: Making people question his appearance on this list and this team.