CALGARY – As the youngest player at Canada's national junior team summer development camp, Julien Gauthier is out to prove age is but a number.
"It doesn't change anything, I think," the 17-year-old forward said at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park. "It's just that I'm the youngest guy on the team. All the guys are like, 'Oh wow! You're only a 2016 eligible draft? You're going to be good.' It's nice to hear that."
In his rookie season as a 16-year-old with Val-d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2013-14, Gauthier had eight goals and 29 points in 62 games.
He earned the invite to Canada's camp following an impressive second season with Val-d'Or. In 68 games, the Pointe-aux-Trembles, Quebec, native had 38 goals and 73 points, then scored five goals and had five assists in 17 playoff games.
Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada's director of player personnel, came calling soon thereafter.
But the 6-foot-4, 212-pound forward didn't immediately answer.
"[Jankowski] texted me first to call him back because I missed the call, and I didn't know who it was," said Gauthier, named to NHL Central Scouting's Futures List for North America and Europe in June. "When I called back, I was really happy. I didn't know what to say at first. I said 'thanks,' and after that I was really excited.
"It's not every day you receive a call like that. I think it was one of the best calls I've ever had in my life. I was really surprised. When I received a call for the U-20, I was really happy."
Jankowski suggested Gauthier garnered the invite to Canada's camp because of his unique size and skill combination.
"In putting our roster together for summer camp, we kind of had everything out on the table and we felt we don't have a lot of size, especially down the middle," Jankowski told NHL.com. "We want to make sure we have somewhat of a presence with that. Julien has that. He has strength, but he can really skate.
"You put those things together and we want to see where he's at here. We want to see where he's at with this age and what he brings overall with that."
The fact that Gauthier doesn't turn 18 until mid-October but was able to step into camp against players nearly two years his elder speaks volumes about his skill set, Central Scouting director Dan Marr said.
"He's a big guy that doesn't have any holes in his game," Marr said. "You aren't projecting that his skating has to improve a whole lot. His hockey sense is good. You know he can shoot and score. There's not a whole lot you're going to look for where you need to see improvement in, in order to enhance his projection.
"Just the fact he's at the camp is a credit to his abilities and the way he's played so far. I know the NHL scouting circles, they have no expectations for an 18-year-old at the Under-20 camp. Any minute of ice time he gets is a bonus. The fact that he's at the camp or on the team always ends up being a positive for him, whether he plays or not. It's not held as a negative."
Gauthier is looking to do more though. Set to play against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, his second consecutive game of Canada's Summer Showcase, Gauthier feels he needs to show his age isn't an obstacle in camp -- and won't be as he vies for a spot on Canada's roster for the IIHF World Junior Championship in December.
"I'm the youngest guy at the U-20 (camp) this year. I think I need to step up my game a little bit," Gauthier said. "I don't think I have the right to make mistakes. I need to play my game. I need to play my power forward game and I think it's going to go really well.
"I need to play my game. They just want to see my strength. That's what I'm trying to do."
Still, nerves are understandable for Canada's youngest camper.
"Of course (there are butterflies)," Gauthier said. "You need to perform. Everything's gone well, but you don't know."
Author: Aaron Vickers | NHL.com Correspondent