At 18 years old, Gauthier is already a stout 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. At the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, his thighs were practically bursting out of his blue suit pants. Two weeks later at Prospects Development Camp in Raleigh, he dwarfed fellow lanky teens.
His fitness results from the first day of camp were predictably impressive.
“I know Pete [Friesen] is tickled. He tells me about it every day,” head coach Bill Peters joked.
There is a reason for all of this, an origin story that begins in a gym with a nine-year old Julien. Yes, a gym. And yes, at nine years old.
See, Gauthier hails from a family of athletes and body-builders. His dad, who’s now a chiropractor and hosts various strong man competitions, was crowned Mr. Canada. His grandfather was also crowned Mr. Canada, was a runner-up for Mr. Universe and was a wrestler. His uncle, Denis, a “hard-working guy on the ice” and “a great example” for Julien, played 554 games in the National Hockey League.
“I think it’s in our veins,” Julien said.
He didn’t want to be a body-builder, though; he wanted to play hockey. As a young boy in the gym, Gauthier was laying a foundation for the years of strength training to come.
“My father said, ‘Do you really want to be a hockey player?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Are you sure? It’s pretty tough,’” Gauthier recalled. “When you’re nine years old, you don’t know what it takes.”
But Gauthier put in the work.
“When you’re really young, you want to play with your friends instead of going to the gym. It was pretty tough, but I don’t regret anything. It was good for me,” he said. “When I saw the results and purpose [of the training], I started to like it a lot.”
“That’s a guy who got after it early in a good environment in the Gauthier family,” Peters said. “He’s on a good path.”
The results of those years of work are now evident.
“I don’t train to look good without a shirt on,” Gauthier said while coincidentally standing shirtless in the locker room. “I train to be powerful and strong.”
Powerful and strong he is, indeed, already built for today’s NHL game even though he was drafted into the league just less than a month ago. His size is one reason why he was the 21st overall selection, the Canes’ second of this year’s first round.
Another reason for his high draft stock: his screamer of a shot. He scored 41 goals last season with Val d’Or of the QMJHL.
“He can shoot the puck, and he’s hungry to score,” Peters said. “He loves to score. He’s going to take it to the net, get into the dirty areas and pay the price net front. That’s what he does, and that’s what we need.”
“I want to shoot the puck as much as I can. I’m a big guy, and I’m not afraid to drive hard [to the net],” Gauthier said in describing his game. “Driving the net, shooting the puck and using my speed. I don’t need to deviate from my game. I need to focus and stick to what I can do best.”
Prospects Development Camp provided the first up-close glimpse of Gauthier’s raw size and talent. He’ll join his peers at the annual NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City before Hurricanes’ training camp in mid-September.
Considering the Canes’ forward depth chart and Gauthier’s age limitations – because he’s a junior player who is not yet 20 years old, he’s ineligible to play in the American Hockey League – his odds of cracking the big club’s lineup are perhaps slim. But he’ll get a good look.
“I sure hope he’s still here and I get to coach him in exhibition games,” Peters said, noting he’ll join the Canes after the conclusion of the World Cup of Hockey. “I hope he has a good camp and deserves to stay and I get a chance to see him in person as it gets whittled down and camp gets a bit smaller.”
If his previous nine years in the gym are any indication, Gauthier is going to put in the work necessary to make his dream a reality as early as October.
“Of course there’s a little bit of pressure with the status of a first-rounder, but it doesn’t matter. We all have a chance, and we’ll work hard to try to prove ourselves,” he said. “I’ll train as hard as I can to be ready [for the NHL] as soon as possible, but it’s a process. I’m working hard to do it this year. I want to give myself a chance.”
is the Web Producer for the Carolina Hurricanes.Email