Will a homegrown son be the choice for Montreal with either their second or third selection of the 2022 NHL Draft? If your wish is to draft a kid who will understand what it means to get picked in front of a fanatical Montreal audience, then look no further than Longueuil native Nathan Gaucher.
Birthplace: Longueuil, Québec
Date of birth: November 6, 2003
Weight: 207 lbs.
Team: Québec Remparts (QMJHL)
There seem to be quite a few options if you want to get yourself a power forward prospect around the end of the first round. Jimmy Snuggerud, Liam Öhgren, Marco Kasper, Ivan Miroshnichenko, Rutger (Big-)McGroarty, Julian Lutz.... The list goes on. Here we have another one wanting to compete for the title of being the poor man’s Juraj Slafkovsky of this draft class.
Mainly operating from centre ice at this point in his career, Gaucher is not an easy player to get around. He plays a solid 200-foot game with a defensive emphasis. Even though he’s now played in the QMJHL for three seasons, he’s never eclipsed point-per-game status over a full year, though he was awfully close in the shortened 2020-21-season, with 35 points in 36 games.
Everyone seems to be in agreement that Gaucher will feature in an NHL lineup in the future, at the very least on a bottom-six wing somewhere. His first few steps are not the quickest, but once he gets up to speed, it’s an impressive thing to witness, considering what a large human being he is.
The question is mainly how much offence you can manage to squeeze out of him at the next level. The thought process among draft analysts seem to be this: If he doesn’t dominate offensively at the Junior level, how will he be able to match up with defenders who are considerably more skilled and well-rounded at the professional stage?
This is not to say that there are no attacking tools in his résumé. Gaucher has decent hands as well as a quick release which blends well with his power when he decides to go for a shot.
Elite Prospects: #25
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #28
NHL Central Scouting: #16 (North American Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #23
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #38
We can see from the rankings here that there isn’t that much discrepancy between the sources. Everyone is fairly in agreement that Gaucher is a player who should be picked within 10 picks of the end of the first round.
People like to describe him as a responsible player. Someone whom you can rely on to win battles and hold possession when it matters. And there is nothing wrong with that if you want a safely projectable player for your prospect pool. He is a decent faceoff-taker as well, and we all know how much the Montreal Canadiens have struggled to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to that aspect of the game. He forechecks well and is able to translate his deceptive speed into pure power, and thus wreak physical havoc on opponents in the QMJHL.
I want to take a minute here and quote The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, who is one of the writers who had Gaucher ranked outside of the first round:
“I think too often players like Gaucher are viewed as the safer pick versus, say, a smaller kid like a Firkus, because of their size, and I think the reverse is often the case.”
I am not going to go into whether he’s right or wrong about this, since he is considerably more experienced covering both the draft and its prospects than I am and probably will ever be, but I thought it was an interesting point of discussion to be had. Size plays a large part when discussing which players who are deemed to be safe or risky bets, with smaller players who have had success in the league often being branded as outliers.
With that said, teams will not draft a Nathan Gaucher if they want to hit a home run and get a possible impact player for their top six somewhere in the distant future. You draft him if you want to stay away from the bust factor and focus on filling a projected hole in your bottom six within the next few years.
We have all seen in the last few seasons how the Tampa Bay Lightning have traded high-value assets for role players like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, but then subsequently gone on to win two Stanley Cups in a row. The Gauchers of the world may never turn out be the flashiest assets in your prospect pool, but they can definitely add team value in several ways, and for years to come.