The NHL Draft got off to a wild start with Juraj Slafkovsky going first overall to the Montreal Canadiens. New Jersey followed by selecting defenseman Simon Nemec with the second overall pick. Then the other two projected Top 3 picks went third and fourth overall – Logan Cooley to Arizona and Shane Wright to Seattle.
That put the Flyers on the clock with the fifth overall pick. They selected forward Cutter Gauthier.
Gauthier is a 6’3”, 201-pound center/left wing who is built to be a power forward. He scored 34 goals and 65 points in 54 games with the US National Team Development Program and had three goals and nine points at World Juniors. He also scored 19 goals and had 28 points in 22 games in the USHL. Gauthier is committed to Boston College for the 2022-23 season.
One of the things that immediately stands out about Gauthier is his versatility. He’s projected to be developed as a center, but can play either wing. He’s got a solid two-way game that shows his attention to detail and he’s relentless on the forecheck. He’s also got the offensive chops with a strong shot and good hands. He has drawn comparisons to Max Pacioretty and Tomas Hertl.
Gauthier was a late riser in the draft, gaining steam in draft rankings as Thursday approached. There are multiple reasons for this.
His versatility as a center and winger showcase his all-around skill set. He’s got the offensive mindset to be a skill winger, but also has the defensive chops to be a two-way center. He is especially good along the wall, knowing how to reach breakout options and using sound positioning to make plays.
His shot is one of the most noticeable parts of his game. He can score from anywhere on the ice and has the ability to make a move through defenders and he can shoot in stride, off both feet, and on his off side. He also has one-timer ability that makes him a natural fit for the power play.
What really helped boost his stock was his two-way ability. Gauthier is a hard-worker and displays his high motor on every shift, notably getting involved on the backcheck. He uses his size to play physical, delivering big hits and working hard in battles in the corners.
“We gave him three things to be a power forward. Ask yourself every game: am I moving my feet? Am I playing physical? And am I getting to the inside? Narrow the focus to those three things. When you watch him now, I think he nails those three things,” USNTDP head coach Adam Nightingale said of Gauthier’s development to Elite Prospects in March.
“Big, strong forward,” a scout told Elite Prospects in March. “Can play center or wing. Skates very well and has a hard shot. He’s going to play in the NHL, it’s just a question of how high up in the lineup and how much of his scoring will translate to the NHL.”
The belief is that Gauthier could be a fit in the Top-6 of the lineup in the future. That remains to be seen, but he has time to develop further. He plans to play one season at Boston College, then turn pro where he will likely get some time in the minors before making his NHL debut. The goal is to have him play center on a regular basis to develop those skills further and see how much translates to the next levels.
The good news for the Flyers is that buys them time. This isn’t a prospect that provides immediate help at the NHL level, but becomes a player they can mold and build around in the future. It’s a good pick on draft day, as most picks are, but it’s imperative for the Flyers to get the development path right on Gauthier and get him into the NHL when he’s ready and the time is right.