Although Cutter Gauthier was shifted to the wing for both the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and international tournaments to accommodate the need for Logan Cooley and Frank Nazar to man those positions in the top six, he has a long-standing history of playing down the middle.
Big centremen who can skate and score usually don’t stay on the board very long in the NHL draft. Teams like to pounce on those kinds of pivots early and avoid missing out on a prospect with a unique profile and alluring tools to complement it
That’s one main reason why Gauthier is expected to be selected in the top 10 according to most draft-oriented sources.
Birthplace: Skellefteå, Sweden (U.S. Nationality)
Date of birth: January 19, 2004
Position: Centre/Left Wing
Weight: 201 lbs.
Team: USNTDP (USHL)
Although Gauthier was born in Skellefteå, Sweden, he remains a U.S. citizen and has played his entire Junior career on American soil. His father, former AHL netminder Sean Gauthier, was in the middle of his first campaign for HockeyAllsvenskan club Skellefteå AIK when Cutter was born.
Eighteen years later, Gauthier is preparing to head to the 2022 NHL Draft to hear his name called in the first round. After a successful 2021-22 campaign, in which he amassed 34 goals and 65 points in 54 games for the USNTDP, as well as nine points in six matches at the World Under-18 Championship, he will be heading to Boston College in the fall to continue his development against stronger competition.
The 6’3” centre is about as close as one can get to a modern-day power forward. His blend of decent pace and solid framework makes him scary when he attacks the neutral zone, moving his feet constantly and using his shoulders and hands efficiently to shield the puck and cut into dangerous ice.
He can burn defenders with pure speed, or push through them with his wide base and upper-body strength. Although some technical refinement is needed — his slightly upright torso and lack of knee bend limit his protection mechanics a bit — he projects well due to his lower-body strength as well as his willingness to push the pace and initiate contact.
Once he gets into dangerous space with the puck, his tools take care of the rest. He has a technically refined release which zips off his stick with power and accuracy, and he excels at unleashing it mid-stride. Although his playmaking lacks patience and forethought, he’s still entirely capable of locating his teammates and getting them the puck in small-ice scenarios and off the rush. He has silky mitts as well, navigating tight spaces and using his hands, shoulders, and feet jointly to solve one-on-one problems.
All of that is what he does well on the puck. Off the puck, however, is where Gauthier’s game gets even more projectable. He opens his hips up and escapes crowds with his stick ready when his teammates start looking for passing options, funnels down the middle of the ice to drag opponents out of place and open lanes, cuts inside toward the back post on the rush, and especially, is a nightmare on the forecheck.
Usually with a player of this type, there’s a concern about their willingness to focus on the defensive side of the game and use their frame in their own zone. This isn’t an issue with Gauthier, although there are better prospects in terms of defensive awareness and involvement, the NTDP forward applies the same intensity he shows on the forecheck when chasing down puck-carriers and opposing rush options on the back-check.
He might not ever be a prime chance-suppressor or penalty killer, but Gauthier is unlikely to be a liability in his own end at the NHL level. The combination he shows of size and determination should help him stop the odd cycle and create turnovers.
Elite Prospects: #11
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #5
Craig Button (TSN) #7
NHL Central Scouting: #3 (North American Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #6
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #18
Gauthier is one of the few prospects in this draft who can be qualified as sure bets to play in the NHL one day. He has a safe floor as a third-line Swiss Army knife, and his positional versatility solidifies that floor even further. The best-case scenario for Gauthier, however, is that he irons out his skating and playmaking to become a true top-six or even top-line goal-scoring centre with defensive and transitional value.
He truly has a bit of everything that scouts want in his arsenal, either at the forefront of his game or in his back pocket. Pace? Check. Size and physicality? Check. Finishing touch, soft hands, off-puck awareness, drive, determination, it’s all there.
It would be truly outstanding to see him still on the board in the teens, but with rumors of the Habs looking to add a top-15 pick to their collection, Gauthier would be a great fit if the selection obtained is high enough to snag him. Otherwise, there is little to no chance he will be available by the time the Habs’ second selection comes around at 26th overall.