The QMJHL is producing some interesting prospects for this year's draft. We've already heard about the big and talented Pierre-Luc Dubois, but there is another big player from Québec slated to go later in the first round. That would be Julien Gauthier, a power forward with some considerable scoring upside
A key part of the powerhouse Val-d'or Foreurs - the second best team during the 2015-16 QMJHL regular season - Gauthier was their top goal scorer with 41 tallies. Unfortunately he and his team fell victim to an early playoff exit, but now he sets his sights on the NHL draft, where he is expected to be gone by the end of the first round.
Birthplace: Pointe-aux-Trembles, Québec
Position: Right Wing
Height: 6'4" Weight: 225lbs
As much as I am one to downplay the value of size, you can't ignore that aspect when it comes to Gauthier. He is a man among boys in the QMJHL, with a size profile sure to make scouts and General Managers alike take notice. At 6'4" and pushing 230lbs, it is quite frightening to think that he could get bigger.
He is your prototypical power forward in many ways. He drives the net very well, uses his frame to protect the puck, and he has some impressive hands for a player of his size. He can undress defenders and goaltenders alike, leading to some highlight-reel goals.
A point of concern would be that he finished with only 57 points in 54 games this past season, down from 73 in 68 games the year before. Obviously he suited up for 14 less games, but even if he went point-per-game for an extra 14 contests, he would have fallen short of his career high from that 2014-15 season.
He's not a player you can expect to step straight into the NHL, as he could definitely use some more time to develop in Junior before turning pro. That said, teams in the lower half of the first round are definitely taking a look at him, because his ceiling figures to be that of a top-six power forward.
He is a big, strong winger with a powerful stride and impressive top speed. He is tough to contain when he is at the top of his game. Consistency has been an issue in the past but he remains an enormous prospect with many impressive pro traits, such as a rocket of a shot and terrific vision in traffic. Can be creative with the puck and set up his teammates with well-timed passes; is a beast along the wall and in the corners
An explosive power forward who boasts an elite-level skill package. Takes nothing for granted and plays with hard-nosed work ethic. Tremendous vision and outstanding hockey sense; thrives under pressure and doesn't stray from the high-percentage play. Willingness to play physical and win battles in his own end makes him a vital asset, stepping up at the game's key moments.
Exceptional skating ability allows him to stay with, if not ahead, of each unfolding play. Refined puck handling skills allow him to maintain puck control at breakneck speeds. All-in-all, a prolific scorer whose attitude and innate abilities will constantly propel him into dominance
Future Considerations: 10th
Central Scouting service: 12th (North American skaters)
Draft Buzz Hockey: 21st
Draft Analysis: 14th
Gauthier is all but guaranteed to be on the board when the Canadiens are on the clock, but ninth overall is not what you want to use on him. If you subscribe to the "best player available" school of thought, it seems pretty clear that you could get someone with higher pedigree there.
If he is someone that they covet, I'd check my best advice as dropping down to later in the first round. He's rather unlikely to be gone in the top 10, and chances are he won't even go in the top 15. His rankings vary greatly depending on where you look, and all things considered, I think he'll go somewhere in the 15-20 range.
For argument's sake, let's say I'm right and he goes in that range. For the Habs to trade down into one of those spots to get him could be interesting. It might even net them an extra second round pick from a team that really wants to move up and take someone who isn't making it out of the top 10. If the Habs could have three picks in the second round, that would set them up for a very big draft year.
Since they're unlikely to get an NHL-ready player with that ninth pick, this is an intriguing idea. You get a guy with solid upside, and a chance to add another overlooked guy in a later round. It all boils down to finding the right trading partner willing to cough up something decent to move up.
In short, I would be perfectly fine with the Canadiens drafting Julien Gauthier, but not if they're doing so at ninth overall.