Using their first-round choice in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected 6-foot-5 and 239-pound center Frederik Gauthier from Laval, Quebec. The choice made sense. Gauthier carried size; and in his 2012-13 season in juniors with Rimouski Oceanic, he scored 22 goals and added 38 assists (for 60 points) in 62 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) games.
That was attractive enough for the Maple Leafs to take a chance on the young center. Gauthier spent two additional seasons with Oceanic and was just under a point-a-game player. In 2013-14, he played 54 games, scoring 18 goals and adding 34 assists (for 52 points); and, the next season, he played 37 games (with 16 and the same number of assists (for 32 points).
Gauthier’s Time with the Maple Leafs Organization
For the 2015-16 season, Gauthier moved to the American Hockey League (AHL) Toronto Marlies. There he played 56 games, and scored six goals and added 12 assists (for 18 points). Although his scoring dropped in that AHL season, he did make his NHL debut. He played seven games with the Maple Leafs and collected a single assist.
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Gauthier split the next two seasons moving up and down between the Marlies and the Maple Leafs. He played 103 AHL games and 30 NHL between the 2016-17 and the 2017-18 seasons.
In 2018-19, Gauthier moved to the Maple Leafs full-time as the team’s regular fourth-line center. Over the next two seasons, he played 131 games, scoring 10 goals and adding 16 assists (for 26 points).
However, that wasn’t enough for the organization. Prior to the 2020-21 season, the Maple Leafs – as they had done the previous season – didn’t extend Gauthier a qualifying offer.
That was the second offseason in a row the Maple Leafs didn’t qualify Gauthier. However, unlike the previous offseason, the organization didn’t re-sign him as a depth center. The Maple Leafs had gathered what they thought was a deep set of forwards headed into the season and decided to look to other players.
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Gauthier became a qualifying casualty along with Jeremy Bracco, Evan Rodrigues, and Max Veronneau. In total, Gauthier had played five seasons with the Blue and White; and before he moved on, he had become well-liked by many fans and, for sure, his teammates.
Gauthier Was One of John Tavares’ Favorite Teammates
Almost exactly three years ago now, at a time before the NHL and the rest of us were forced to live through COVID-19, Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares participated in a long Q & A with Sportsnet’s Luke Fox to talk about his time as team captain. One interesting part of the interview was his relationship with Gauthier, whose nickname is “Goat.”
Tavares called Gauthier “the most interesting Maple Leaf. He’s awesome. … He’s just a quirky guy that’s very interesting and just a really good person. I think he plays a really good role for us. It’s not always seen or talked about a lot, but just a lot of consistency with him and just the way he carries himself and his professionalism.”
Gauthier Moves Around the NHL
After his 2019-20 regular season with the Maple Leafs, Gauthier was signed by the Arizona Coyotes and played two games there. He didn’t score. However, teaming with current Maple Leafs’ first-line winger Michael Bunting, Gauthier played 18 games of the 2020-21 season with the Tucson Roadrunners. He scored a couple of goals and added five assists.
After the 2020-21 season, Gauthier was signed during the 2021-22 preseason by the New Jersey Devils (on October 8, 2021) for $800,000. The Devils put him on waivers, and he moved down to the AHL Utica Comets.
That’s where Gauthier spent his 2021-22 season. In total, with the Comets, he played 51 games, with eight goals and 24 assists (for 32 points). As it stands, that might have been the last season in North American hockey for the now 27-year-old Quebec native.
Gauthier Lands in Northern Switzerland
For the 2022-23 season, Gauthier is playing in northern Switzerland with Ajoie HC in the Swiss-A league. He’s played 36 games there and has scored five goals and added eight assists (for 13 points).
What’s interesting (I think) about Ajoie HC is its location. The professional hockey team is based in Porrentruy, Switzerland. Porrentruy is a small municipality (and the capital of its district) in the canton of Jura (of the coffee machines). It is located in the northwest, near the border with France.
The Ajoie HC club plays in the Swiss League (SL) (the second-tier professional ice hockey league in Switzerland). The team has won the Swiss League championship three times and plays its home games at the Patinoire des Mélèzes, which holds 3,000 spectators.
My quick research suggests that a typical Canadian player in the Swiss A league makes just under 300,000 Swiss Francs. Given that the Swiss Franc is worth about 1.45 Canadian dollars, it means that Gauthier is making – give or take – just under $500,000 CAD for his season.
Is Playing Near France Like Being Home for Gauthier?
As noted, the place Gauthier is playing hockey this season is a small town with a population of just under 8,000 people close to the border of France. Given that Gauthier’s first language is French; and, personally having worked in Switzerland a number of times, I can see a possible connection and attraction for the Quebec native.
Porrentruy is known for its medieval old town, including the castle of Porrentruy and the Church of Saint-Pierre. Porrentruy’s economy is based on agriculture and tourism. It holds a number of cultural and agricultural festivals each year.
There are likely worse places for a French-speaking Canadian hockey player to live and play.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf