Penguins’ Frasca & Gauthier ELCs Continue Trend of Underrated Signings

If the past few Pittsburgh Penguins‘ seasons have taught us anything, it’s that team management has been uncharacteristically good at picking up exactly what the team needs, exactly when the team needs it. Exhibits A, B, and C can be slotted with any free agent signing of the past half-decade. The tradition has continued even as management has changed and the core is approaching the end of their careers. Ron Hextall has tapped into the spirit of Jim Rutherford with the recent signings of Canadian Hockey League (CHL) overagers Jordan Frasca and Taylor Gauthier.

Ron Hextall Pittsburgh Penguins
Ron Hextall, GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Evan Schall/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the tradition of Penguins’ transactions, the arrival of Frasca and Gauthier came without any fanfare. Despite this, these underrated signings have the potential to help the team in future postseasons and beyond, just as the players of the previous signings did.

Undrafted Overagers Having Excellent Junior Campaigns

It’s fair to say both Frasca and Gauthier have earned the rights to entry-level contracts. Each has been excellent in their respective junior leagues this season. Frasca, a forward currently occupying the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Kingston Frontenacs’ second line, leads the team in goals (34) and points (70), as well as in plus/minus (plus-27), power play goals (13) and game-winning goals (4). He also serves as his team’s alternate captain and plays alongside Shane Wright, predicted by many to go first overall in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Formerly of the Windsor Spitfires, Frasca has appeared in a total of 157 OHL games between the Spitfires and Frontenacs and has accumulated 57 goals and 76 assists for 133 points. His offensive outburst has helped his team to seventh place in the OHL, behind only historical powerhouses like the London Knights, the aforementioned Spitfires, and recent successes, the Mississauga Steelheads, Hamilton Bulldogs, and Flint Firebirds.

Taylor Gauthier of the Prince George Cougars
Taylor Gauthier, formerly of the Prince George Cougars (James Doyle/Prince George Cougars)

At the same time, the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Taylor Gauthier has backstopped the Portland Winterhawks to a playoff position in 2022 and third place in the Western Conference. In 29 games this season, he has posted the best numbers of his career. His record stands at 21-6-0, his goals-against average (GAA) at 2.16, and his save percentage (SV%) at .934 alongside three shutouts. His numbers have improved since being dealt to the Winterhawks from the Prince George Cougars, posting a .943 SV% since his arrival in the Pacific Northwest (from “Winterhawks goalie Gauthier signs pro contract with Pittsburgh”,The Oregonian, 02/03/2022.). Gauthier has a history of high-level play, having been selected 10th overall in the WHL’s Bantam Draft in 2016 and as a member of Canada’s World Junior Championship squad in 2021 and the Under-18 national team in 2019.

Related: Penguins Should Sign These 3 Forwards to Professional Tryouts

Frasca and Gauthier Will Add Their Names to the Penguins’ List of Under-the-Radar Transactions

Although both Gauthier and Frasca have put together remarkable seasons in 2021-22, the nature of their signings means they won’t receive much attention in the long run. The two have signed entry-level deals and will have to play the remainder of this season as well as the next with their junior clubs. Despite the Penguins’ inability to turn these two signings into immediate impact players, the moves fit right in with those of previous seasons. They also have a history of underrated free-agent signings and trades in the same vein.

Jason Zucker Pittsburgh Penguins
Jason Zucker, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Penguins’ management has a history of signing and trading for underrated players who have gone on to become household names. Forward Jason Zucker, acquired from the Minnesota Wild in Feb. 2020 for Alex Galchenyuk, Calen Addison, and a conditional draft pick, has since become one of the most important players in the lineup, at least until he went down with a core muscle injury in Jan. 2022 and was placed on injured reserve (IR). Likewise, forward Brock McGinn, a former junior standout, signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason after a stint with the Carolina Hurricanes. Evan Rodrigues, Danton Heinen, and Chad Ruhwedel are all a part of this list too, as each has made their own individual impact on the Penguins’ success this season. Frasca and Gauthier should add their names as soon as they get an opportunity to do so.

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