With the 21st overall pick, Canes selected Julien Gauthier from Val-d’Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“A couple guys just told me to have fun and enjoy what happens,” Gauthier said in his bi-lingual media scrum. “I’m so happy about it.”
Gauthier, 18, led the Val-d’Or Foreurs and ranked tied for sixth in the QMJHL with 41 goals in 2015-16. He also had 11 power-play goals and a plus-24 rating.
“He’s a proven goal-scorer in a scoring league,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes director of amateur scouting. “He’s a big man who can skate. He has skill. … We’re pretty excited to get a guy like that with that kind of size and skill, a guy who can score and play a physical game as well.”
“He scores goals and can skate well,” said Canes Executive Vice President and General Manager Ron Francis. “He started the season as a consensus top-five pick. To get him where we did at 21, we’re excited about that.”
Gauthier, already built at 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds, said he models his game after power forward Rick Nash.
“Big guy who can skate and score goals,” Gauthier said.
“If he turns out to be Rick Nash, we’d be OK with that,” MacDonald said with a smile.
The combination of Gauthier’s size and goal-scoring attributes is what excites the Hurricanes about his potential.
“He’s a pretty tenacious player. He has good speed, and he uses that speed. He’s in quick on the forecheck,” MacDonald said. “He gives you some physical presence on that wing and is a guy who can score.”
Gauthier’s uncle, Denis, was a 20th overall pick of the Calgary Flames in 1995. He logged 554 career NHL games with four teams from 1997-09. Denis is now an assistant coach for the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs.
As a 16-year-old rookie in the 2013-14 season, Julien logged 30 points (9g, 21a) in the regular season and added seven assists in the playoffs as Val-d’Or captured its third QMJHL championship. The Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., native better than doubled his point totals in 2014-15 with 73 (38g, 35a) in 68 games.
“They have done a lot for me,” Gauthier said of the Foreurs. “They showed me what winning is.”
Julien was the only 2016 draft-eligible player on Team Canada’s roster in the 2016 World Junior Championship. He recorded two assists in five tournament games.
NHL’s Central Scouting Service ranked him 12th among North American skaters heading into this year’s draft. For the first time in Hurricanes history, the team made two first-round selections. This 21st overall pick came from Los Angeles in the Andrej Sekera trade in 2015.
In picking twice, the Hurricanes were able to add prospect depth at both forward and defense, and the team still has seven picks to make across six rounds on Saturday.
“Gauthier is the kind of player who could play maybe right away, but he probably needs more development. It would be unfair to expect him to be able to step into our lineup right away,” MacDonald said. “He will be an interesting player to watch in training camp. We’ll see how he matches up because physically he can match up with pro players.”
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