©Photo TC Média – Valérie Maltais
With the Flyers eliminated from the playoffs, they’re heading into the 2016 Draft picking in the late teens or early twenties depending on how the rest of the playoffs shake out. As such, while it’s highly unlikely they’ll trade up for one of the big three prospects of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine or Jesse Puljujarvi, it’s still possible to evaluate some of the lesser known prospects in yet another solid draft.
One player the Flyers could look to target is Julien Gauthier.
For the non-analytic types: Gauthier is big, listed at 6’4 224, and comes with the chemistry of playing with current Flyers prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel for Val d’Or of the QMJHL. He’s a power forward who long term could evolve into a bigger Wayne Simmonds as a secondary net front presence. And he’s the nephew of former Flyer Denis Gauthier.
Per Elite Prospects:
An explosive power forward who boasts an elite-level skill package. Takes nothing for granted and plays with hard-nosed work ethic. Tremendous vision and outstanding hockey sense; thrives under pressure and doesn’t stray from the high-percentage play. Willingness to play physical and win battles in his own end makes him a vital asset, stepping up at the game’s key moments. Exceptional skating ability allows him to stay with, if not ahead, of each unfolding play. Refined puckhandling skills allow him to maintain puck control at breakneck speeds. All-in-all, a prolific scorer whose attitude and innate abilities will constantly propel him into dominance. (Curtis Joe, EP 2016)
Julien Gauthier has drawn well-deserved comparisons to current NHLer Rick Nash. He has an imposing frame, dazzling puck skills, and the drive to win. Learns from his past mistakes and implements new strategies to counteract them. [EliteProspects 2016]
Of course, my evaluations tend to be based on a more analytic viewpoint, so here’s the next best part: Julien Gauthier isn’t just a giant big body hockey player, he’s also highly skilled. He led Val d’Or with 41 goals this past season and has scored over a point per game his last two junior seasons, both of which show a positive future in the NHL.
For the NHL Equivalency, I’m going to combine his last two regular seasons, since Gauthier’s late birthday means he’s somewhat similar to a player who was drafted in 15 but slid a year already. As such, he clocks in at 1.07 points per game in the QMJHL, which equates to .277 points per game in the NHL or 23 points per 82 games. As a reminder, this is 23 points projected if he makes the jump to the NHL next year, not what his scoring prime would be. One of the positives though is his goal scoring, with .759 goals per game this past season in Junior, he actually scored at a very comparable goal per game rate to the leading QMJHL goal scorer Nicolas Roy, who had 48 goals in 63 games, for a goal per game ratio of .761.
Gauthier is a dominant forward size wise, if the scoring comes with him to the NHL, he’ll be a dominant power forward for years, if it doesn’t, he’s got the smarts and tools to be an effective bottom penalty killing forward who could help Sean Couturier with the heavy lifting defensively. If asked right now, Gauthier’s ceiling is likely Rick Nash, but the floor of his talent is probably Brayden Schenn, a very effective middle six forward who can go on scoring runs.