Before the QMJHL’s second game of the Canada Russia series, Julien Gauthier summed up what he tries to do in three simple bullet points: drive hard to the net, skate fast and take good shots. Those are pretty standard for any power forward, but the Val-d’Or Foreurs NHL draft-eligible prospect delivers. NHL Central Scouting has the 6-foot-4, 224-lb. winger ranked fourth among North American Skaters and Sportsnet’s Damien Cox has Gauthier at No. 11 overall in his latest ranking. He’ll serve as an alternate captain for Team Cherry at the top prospects game in Vancouver Thursday.
Team Cherry vs. Team Orr, Thursday on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West, and Pacific
Here’s a closer look at what Gauthier’s been up to on the ice this season:
On pace for 50-goal season
Gauthier’s 33 goals have him tied for third in the QMJHL—that while he missed over a month of action in December and January while playing for Canada in the world juniors—but no player has a better goals-per-game average. It's a mark that has gone up each season: from 0.145 as a rookie (nine goals in 62 games) to 0.559 as a sophomore (38 in 68) to 0.943 this season (33 in 35).
According to Prospect-Stats.com, Gauthier has an estimated goals per 60 minutes of 2.913, by far tops in the league—I’m not including Jean Gleizes (3.313) or Ben Higgins (2.462), since each has only played two games this season.
Val-d’Or has 20 games remaining and Gauthier will most likely miss Friday’s contest en route back from Vancouver. Using Gauthier’s estimated time on ice per game of 19.418—and, again, assuming he plays 19 more games—he should see about 368.942 more minutes this season. That translates to 6.149 hours, and with his eG/60, he’s on pace to score 17.912 more times. Add that to his current 33 goals and he’s projected to finish the year with 50.912 goals, right in line with the 50.922 calculated using straight G/GP.
Maxime St-Cyr of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar was the only QMJHLer to pot 50 last season. He found the back of the net 54 times in 68 games, as an overager.
Dangerous in the slot
Now for the driving hard to the net part of Gauthier’s game. Every scoresheet on the QMJHL website charts the location of every shot and goal. Using this data, I looked at where Gauthier’s goals have been scored from and placed them in one of the following categories:
A rectangle formed from the point where the goal line meets the trapezoid back to the inner hashmarks outside the face-off circles.
A triangle on the left side of the slot. Measured between the faceoff dot, the inner hashmarks and the point where goal line and trapezoid meet.
Same as the East, but on the right side.
A rectangle, measured between the faceoff dots to the top of the faceoff circle.
A whopping 23 of 33—69.7 percent—of Gauthier’s goals come from the slot. If you include the east and west slot areas, all but four of his markers have come from between the faceoff dots and trapezoid lines. So he’s not kidding when he says he drives hard to the net and tries to get good shots off.
On Dec. 6, his last game before heading to Team Canada's camp, Gauthier had a hat-trick against the Moncton Wildcats. All three goals came from the slot (he's got a slick celly down, too).
In fact, he had 14 consecutive goals from the slot earlier this season. If you want to shut this kid down, try to keep him out of the slot. Easier said than done since the big power-forward plays like a runaway train.
How about that shot?
For Gauthier, the goals aren’t just a result of firing pucks at the net whenever possible. Of the 11 players who've scored 30 goals or more this season, he’s taken the fewest shots with 129. That gives him a 25.581 shhoting percentage. Of players who’ve played more than 20 games, only Québec Remparts forward Auguste Impose is better with a 25.641 Sh%.
The QMJHL tracks "dangerous shots". While it’s not an exact science, shots taken in the trapezoid formed between the goal posts and the faceoff dots are considered dangerous. Additionally, all goals are deemed dangerous.
This season, Gauthier has 89 dangerous shots, outside the top 20 in the league. But that number represents 68.992% of his total shots. Now, just because a player is taking a lot of dangerous shots, it doesn’t mean he's doing a lot with those shots. That’s why modified dangerous shot percentage—the average of DS% and Sh%—can be used to show how dangerous a player is. Gauthier has an MDS% of 47.287, an improvement on his 46.2 MDS% calculated at the beginning of November.
Of players who have taken 50 or more shots, Gauthier's MDS% comes in at No. 11. And among players who have scored at least 10 goals, it's ninth. So, if you hadn't already picked up on it, he's a dangerous scorer to be sure.
Look for Gauthier's size, pace and shot to be on full display Thursday. If they are and he's at his best, Gauthier will go a long way towards cementing his place in the top 10 at the 2016 NHL Draft. And maybe even as the first Canadian-born player selected.