Welcome to Chowder's 2016 Draft Profiles series. Last year we ran a whole lot of profiles on prospective Bruins picks, and managed to hit on two out of three in the first round. Here's what we said last year about Jake Debrusk and Jakub Zboril to refresh your memory.
This season, we begin with a big winger with a lethal scoring touch who could be the answer to many in Boston's prayers.
Yes, he's that good and is a player MADE to be popular in Boston. Even though he's from Quebec.
Val D'Or Foreurs RW Julien Gauthier is a 6'4, 224lb wrecking ball of a forward who only knows who to play one way...full on. He is the prototypical Boston type player, just as happy going around opposition defencemen as he is going through them.
The 18-year-old from Pointe-Aux-Trembles, on the eastern tip of the island of Montreal, is a player who combines most of the gifts that make NHL coaches salivate. As already mentioned, he has prototypical size, an explosive first stride and hands to die for.
Watch. Even allowing for the somewhat hagiographic standard that is a hype video...ignore the corny title, this compilation shows Julien Gauthier at his very, very best.
As that video shows, Gauthier is fast, strong, tenacious and vicious anywhere near the net. Note in particular the less pretty goals, like the one at 3:38. This is someone who has size and isn't afraid to use it, and gives absolutely no qualms about throwing himself into a pile and digging away until the opposition are damn sure they have the puck covered.
So far, so prototype power-forward. But then you watch his hands. Gauthier's puck-handling skills are incredibly impressive for someone who, remember, stands 6'4 and 224lbs. Note the number of goals that see him pull a move past a baffled and surprised defenseman who simply doesn't think someone this big can be that explosive. Note that one-time shot-the accuracy and release. These are the kind of things that make NHL fans salivate.
Now imagine that paired with...say, fellow Quebecer Patrice Bergeron.
Excited yet, Boston?
His puck protection, naturally, is close to elite level too. This, after all, is a player who outweighs most of his opposition by some considerable margin. But there is one key aspect to Gauthier's play that arguably shows most just how well he'll translate to the next level and just how popular he could potentially become in Boston, or indeed wherever he ends up.
There is a phenomenon referred to among NHL scouts as "Big Guy Easy" syndrome. It basically argues that players like Gauthier, blessed with physical development and size beyond many of their peers, can often stand out more than their ability perhaps warrants even up to and including elite junior level because their physical gifts allow them to play in a way that masks deficiencies only shown up by the more rounded game required in the NHL or other elite pro leagues. Put a man-child amongst teenagers, the arguments run, and he'll always stand out. Put him up against men and often a player who hasn't had to work as hard as some on acquired skill suddenly is found a little wanting against those with long experience in countering physical advantage. It's one of the reasons the likes of Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine are rated so highly - and higher in the draft than Gauthier. They have similar gifts, but they're already doing it against experienced pro players.
Gauthier, emphatically, does not suffer from "Big Easy" syndrome. All the evidence so far is that his attitude will not allow him to take a shift off, it appears. He'll still be flying around the zone chasing down pucks and backchecking hard with as much effort and drive in the 59th minute and beyond as he will in the first.
In his first QMJHL season, he had 8 goals and 28 assists. The last two he had 38+35 and, this season, 41+16. This is a player who has the potential to be an elite goalscorer at the NHL level-scouts are already comparing him to players like Rick Nash in terms of potential and ability.
That's some weight to carry, yet Gauthier's broad shoulders appear more than capable of doing so.
Currently he's ranked between #12 and #20 in scouting lists...bang in Boston's wheelhouse. With the NHL Draft relatively light on elite defensive prospects this far down and the Bruins already with a large amount of depth in their system here, Gauthier would seem to be the type of player that comes straight out of Boston dreams - a Quebecer made in the template of the Big Bad Bruin.
He's explosive, skilled and built like a tank, and reports have him as an eminently coachable player - one who is focused on learning and improving at every possible opportunity.
Mock drafts have him going in the teens, with one even having him going to the B's at 15. With the Bruins (currently) picking 14 and 20 in the first round, Gauthier is a player who may fall into their laps like manna from heaven.
The TD Garden crowd loves a power forward. In Julien Gauthier they have a player with the potential to be a truly elite example of the breed, should they want to pick him.
The Bruins fans have already taken one Quebecer to their hearts in Patrice Bergeron. If Gauthier's name is called by Messrs Sweeney and Neely this June, it may not be long until they idolise another.