Rangers Have Playoffs Difference Maker in Gauthier

When the New York Rangers traded for Julien Gauthier from the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this season, he was expected to become a part of New York’s plan to rebuild. However, with the rebuild going faster than expected, the newly acquired winger will get an opportunity to take on his former team this postseason. He has not spent much time in the NHL yet, but he has the tools to succeed in the playoffs.

Gauthier Has Played Well in the AHL

Gauthier was originally selected by the Hurricanes with the 21st overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He spent the 2016-17 season in the QMJHL, then made his professional debut in the AHL in the 2017-18 season. He has improved in each of his three seasons in the AHL.

Julien Gauthier
Julien Gauthier (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

In the 2017-18 season, he scored 16 goals and had 9 assists in 65 games with the Charlotte Checkers. While his offensive production wasn’t great, he showed off impressive speed and strength. He finished with 27 goals and 14 assists in 75 games during the 2018-19 season. This season, he had 26 goals and 11 assists in 44 games, earning a shot in the NHL.

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Gauthier has proven he can score goals consistently in the AHL and developed into one of the Checkers’ best players. He used his size effectively and got many of his goals by going to the front of the net.

Speed and Power

Gauthier has a unique combination of speed and power. He is listed as 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds but he has also shown off surprising speed. In his brief time with the Rangers, he has shown he is willing to engage in physical battles and drive to the front of the net.

Gauthier has also shown he has the speed to blow by opponents. In just 12 games with New York, he has already drawn multiple penalties by using his speed to get around opposing defensemen and his strength to protect the puck.

Julien Gauthier New York Rangers
Julien Gauthier, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The closest comparison to Gauthier on the Rangers, in terms of his skillset, is Chris Kreider. Kreider also has great strength, speed and size, which he has used effectively, especially in the postseason.

Kreider made his NHL debut during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs for the Blueshirts. He immediately made his presence felt. He scored the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the first round against the Ottawa Senators and the game-winning goal in Game 1 of the second round against the Washington Capitals. He finished with five goals and two assists in 18 games that postseason.

The Playoffs Will Serve as an Opportunity for Gauthier

The Rangers can hope for a similar postseason performance from Gauthier. The playoffs provide an opportunity for Gauthier to have a breakout performance, just as Kreider did eight years ago. Gauthier has only averaged 8:39 per game in 12 games with the Rangers but that could increase in the postseason.

Chris Kreider Rangers
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers, Mar. 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brendan Smith, who played as a forward earlier in the season, has moved back to defense, since New York traded Brady Skjei to Carolina at the trade deadline.

Additionally, the NHL announced that Brendan Lemieux would be suspended for his hit on Joonas Donskoi in the team’s final game before play was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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In addition to having more opportunities, Gauthier’s skillset should translate well to postseason play. He plays a tight-checking game and isn’t afraid to engage in battles for the puck or positioning in front of the net.

His skating ability will also serve him well. In tightly contested, physical games, Gauthier’s speed should be effective. In addition to Kreider, Carl Hagelin and Michael Grabner have also used their speed effectively in the postseason for the Rangers.

Despite his limited NHL experience, Gauthier has the skills to prove himself and make a difference for the Rangers this postseason.