There have been high expectations for power forward Julien Gauthier since Carolina drafted him 21st overall in 2016. Since then, the right winger has earned a silver medal with Canada at the 2017 world juniors and ended that season with a QMJHL championship in Saint John.
But Gauthier was still a bit one-dimensional when he turned pro. Scoring goals came easy, so that’s what he focused on. His first AHL season was a wakeup call. “I was always dangerous in front of the net, but I was never dominant in my own zone,” Gauthier said. “Last year was hard, I won’t lie, but sometimes you need that to get better. The AHL is really defensive, it’s a grinding league.”
Charlotte Checkers coach Mike Vellucci, who also serves as Carolina’s assistant GM and director of hockey ops, therefore had a task on his hands. “He had a slow start, maybe a little to do with his effort,” Vellucci said. “He thought the AHL would be easier. He’s not the only one, a lot of guys do.”
With tough love and some video sessions with development coach Sergei Samsonov, Gauthier began to see what could happen when he applied his enthusiasm in the scoring areas to the rest of the ice. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Gauthier marries a powerful frame with solid skating, so he can really throw his weight around. In an age where classic power forwards are difficult to find, the Hurricanes prospect has the potential to create havoc in the NHL. Vellucci saw great growth last year. By the middle of the season, Gauthier had come on strong, and he finished his rookie pro campaign with 16 goals. “You have to earn it,” Gauthier said. “I did my class, you learn and it’s not fun, but Mike did a great job with me, even if it was hard.”
When his game rounds into form, Gauthier gives Carolina another option up front as the franchise retools – and the Hurricanes need as many weapons as possible. With continued growth this season, Gauthier can be a weapon in the NHL soon. “You have to use your mind more than your body,” Vellucci said. “You have to compete every shift, every game. When he does make a mistake, he knows it now, and he won’t do it again.”
This story appears in the Prospects Unlimited 2018 issue of The Hockey News magazine.