“Toronto is proud to select, from Rimouski in the CHL, Frederik Gauthier.”
And that was it. Terse and to the point, nothing else would come out of the mouth of Dave Nonis as he made his first ever selection as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, 21st overall. For those who don’t actively follow junior hockey, the story went: tall, two-way centre. He scored 22 goals, 38 assists for 60 points in 62 games with Rimouski in the QMJHL this year, as well as leading all first-year players in faceoff percentage (46.6%). For fans that wanted one of the more dynamic forwards still available at that position, like perhaps, Hunter Shinkaruk, this pick may have come as a bit of a surprise or even disappointment. However, Frederik himself provides a few reasons that we should be excited about this pick:
1. He’s big.
At a gargantuan 6’4” and 215 lb., Gauthier was the tallest and heaviest centre taken in the first round, edging out Florida’s 2nd overall pick, Aleksander Barkov. Good move on Nonis’ part to bring in a centreman with size this team hasn’t seen since Mats Sundin; after all, as the old adage goes, “you can’t teach size”. So we’ve got a big centre, what can we expect? Jordan Staal? Ryan Getzlaf? Or perhaps you subscribe to the school of thought that we shouldn’t bog prospects down with constant comparisons to current NHL players.
2. He’s fast.
Even with all that size, he manages to maintain a lot of speed. At the combine at the CHL’s Top Prospects Game this year, he was one of only four skaters to clock in at under 4 seconds while skating 30 metres, joining 1st overall pick Nathan MacKinnon, Samuel Morin and Nikita Zadorov.
3. These are the picks you have to make.
Yeah, yeah, it hurt when Mantha went the pick before, and it hurts to see Shinkaruk slip just a few spots further. But as a future, reliable middle-six two-way centre, Gauthier is one of the picks you just have to make when you pick late in the first round. Sure, you might be able to pick up a dynamic scoring forward this late, but probability is against you at this point. And perhaps Frederik’s offensive ceiling could be higher than previously thought; after all, there’s a reason we develop our prospects.