McKenzie on WJC cuts: "(Samuel) Morin and (Frederik) Gauthier need to have strong games against the Russians on Friday night."
— Will (@HeyMyNameIsWill) December 17, 2014
Top Prospect Frederik Gauthier is one of the last 15 forwards left on the Team Canada Men’s World Juniors National Hockey Team roster. As the team needs to cut down a few more players before the tournament it looks as if Gauthier is one of the bubble players and it seems unclear if he will be playing for Canada.
Should Gauthier be selected to remain on the team? He will have to have a strong game, as the tweet says, in order to convince Hockey Canada he should. Is his playing resume strong enough? This we need to dive into and compare him to the other 14 forwards to try and analyze the likelihood that Frederik Gauthier will be suiting up with the Maple Leaf this Christmas break.
The Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, 21st overall, selected Frederik Gauthier. It seems Gauthier was highly desired for his size more than his offensive ability. Listed at 6’ 4” and 215 he scored 60 points in 62 games out of the QMJHL, a league known for higher scoring. In his entire Major Junior career Gauthier has never once scored higher than a point-per-game rate though he appears to be more known for his defensive capabilities
Scouts from Hockey’s Future has described him as:
Already a polished prospect, Gauthier combines great size with a mature game at both ends of the ice. The same on-ice vision and hockey sense that makes him a dangerous contributor at the offensive side of the game also serves him well in breaking up opposing plays in his own zone. He’s strong on the cycle, skates well and uses his size to win battles. Though he may never be a top offensive threat, he has too many tools to ignore.
Last year Gauthier was selected to Team Canada for the World Junior Hockey Championships as a an 18 year old. He played in 7 games and finished with 1 point and 2 PIMs. Canada failed to medal again last year and it was considered another disappointment to many Canadian fans. Gauthier was seemingly selected last year as a role player on the “grinder line” as Hockey Canada tends to fill their bottom 6 with these types of players.
Who are the other 14 players and how does he stack up against them?
|Connor McDavid||17||6.01||187||C / L||18||51||2.83||70|
|Max Domi||19||5.09||185||C / L||27||58||2.15||53|
|Michael Da Colle||18||6.02||171||L||23||46||2.00||49|
|Sam Reinhart||19||6.01||185||C / R||15||27||1.80||44|
|Robby Fabbri||18||5.10||178||C / R||22||38||1.73||42|
|Rourke Chartier||18||5.11||180||C / L||30||51||1.70||42|
|Brayden Point||18||5.09||160||C / R||29||44||1.52||37|
|Nic Petan||19||5.09||173||C / L||26||33||1.27||31|
|Jason Dickinson||19||6.02||191||C / L||23||24||1.04||26|
Things do not look so bright for Gauthier from the above table. He’s near the bottom of the list in terms of points; while not producing does not mean he’s a bad player, high production over a long period is usually indicative that the player excels in all aspects of the game. Even when adjusting for league Gauthier continues to fall. My initial guess is that Gauthier is competing for the remaining spot with Lawson Crouse. Also working against Gauthier is that he is fighting for a left-wing position while the majority of players are left-wings or left-shooting centres. A centre can move to the wing without much issue but moving a natural winger to the centre is much more difficult. Combined with the fact that the majority of Canadians are left-handed, Gauthier will have to really stand out in Friday’s game to earn the last spot.
Of course points don’t tell us everything and while CHL stats are fairly limited for individual players sites like CHLStats.com and starting to rise to give us more data for Major Junior Players. From there we can derive information such as Gauthier’s estimated time on ice (21 minutes/game) or his Even-Strength relative Goals-For% where he is currently a +1.0% (11th on Rimouski for all regulars). These numbers all fall in comparison to his competition when taking into account the leagues they are playing in.
What Gauthier does have going for himself is that he has experience, he did compete in the World Juniors last year and he knows what the team has to go through. He is also one of the biggest guy on the team; some hockey management has a fetish for size believing that being big is the key to succeeding. He’s also older and typically in the Under-20 environment your players that are as close to 20 as possible have an advantage in their physical development. When looking at draft picks you usually want to go the opposite and selecting the highest scoring player who is youngest. An additional fact that helps Gauthier is that Hockey Canada has typically liked to select “role players,” picked for their grit and character, who can be grinders during the tournament. This is why Gauthier was selected last year and was his main role during the tournament. If hockey Canada goes this route Gauthier’s size will be an advantage.
It’s hard to make a clear cut prediction on if Gauthier will be on Team-Canada, we can see why he’s a bubble player. Who is worse than him? Lawson Crouse is someone who would likely be cut (or should be cut) before Gauthier as the only talent he seemingly brings to the table relative to the other forwards is size.
Ultimately the decision will likely be determinant on how he performs Friday night and what Hockey Canada wants in their players at the World stage. If Canada wants another role player grinder line, which I would advocate against as it hasn’t worked in the past, then Gauthier has a better chance of making the team. In the end Hockey Canada should be picking the best players to bring to the World Juniors rather than players that fit their vision including a gritty players with the sole intent of grinding the opposition.