ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling draft-eligible prospects leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo on June 24-25. Julien Gauthier is the No. 12-ranked North American skater in the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. The Avalanche has the 10th overall selection at the draft.
With a family history in both hockey and bodybuilding, Julien Gauthier is a strong forward that knows how to find the back of the net.
His No. 12 ranking among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting makes him the top right wing in the category and the second-highest prospect from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Gauthier’s size is a factor that instantly makes it tough for scouts to overlook him. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, which has translated into an ability for him to be physical and generate offense.
“He's a skilled power forward that can score,” said Central Scouting director Dan Marr to NHL.com. “Very good skater with size and strength. Has a strong, fluid stride with deceptive speed. He plays a physical game, is willing to battle for pucks down low and positioning to the net. He has adept hockey sense, offensive instincts and playmaking skills to get open on the play and finish his chances. Responsible and hard-working in all zones.”
The Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec, native’s play is centered on his size and strength, which he works hard off the ice to maintain. Competitive bodybuilding runs in Gauthier's family as his father won the Mr. Canada bodybuilding contest in 1984 and his grandfather won the same contest in 1964.
Gauthier himself has been working out since he was only 9 years old, but he's instead following in the footsteps of his uncle, Denis Gauthier, who played in 554 NHL games with the Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings.
“Training has always been part of my life,” Gauthier said to Hockey Canada's official website in December. “My father never forced me to do it, but he told me when I was younger that if I wanted to play hockey, it would be good for me to work out. I’ve never stopped since that day.”
His athletic prowess was on display at the NHL Scouting Combine earlier this month, where he recorded the second-highest force plate vertical jump (26.69 inches) and ranked seventh in time duration for the VO2 Max, which helps measure aerobic fitness.
The 18-year-old recently finished his third season with the Val-d’Or Foreurs in the QMJHL in 2015-16, where he assailed the net with 208 shots and lit the red lamp a team-leading 41 times in 54 games. He also added 16 assists to bring his point total to 57 and finished with a rating of plus-24.
The Foreurs finished the regular season with the second-most points with 102, but their playoffs came to a quick end in the first round. They fell in six games to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, which included losing the last contest in triple overtime. In the series, Gauthier scored twice and notched five assists.
Impressively, Gauthier was able to lead the team in goals during the season despite taking time away to represent his native Canada at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. He also played in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.
Gauthier was the only undrafted player on Team Canada’s roster at the World Juniors, casting him as a focal point for NHL scouts at the tournament. He later showcased his skills among his peers during the Top Prospects Game, which featured some of the 40 best draft-eligible players from the Canadian Hockey League.
“Of course there's pressure when you're at those events," Gauthier acknowledged to NHL.com about playing in two of the marquee events for teenage major-junior hockey players. "But you need to take it positively. It's not bad for you. Yes, for sure there's pressure. But I think you just have to put it away and play your simple game.”
As draft day approaches, the advice from Gauthier's hockey-playing uncle may become particularly salient.
"He always said not to put too much pressure on myself and just play a simple game," Julien Gauthier said. "He's been there before me. He knows how it works. I try to listen to him as much as I can. He's always giving me good tips and tricks.”