NEWARK, N.J. - The Toronto Maple Leafs have plenty of organizational depth on defence, so they used their first-round pick to take a centre, choosing Frederik Gauthier 21st overall.
Gauthier of Rimouski Oceanic is a strong two-way player who led first-year Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players in faceoff percentage.
"I've never seen a kid get back and play defence like he does in 20 years," Chris Bordeleau of NHL Central Scouting said. "In his own end, he's always around the puck. A kid that can play defence like he does at his age, with that kind of maturity, is very rare."
Toronto general manager Dave Nonis insisted going into the draft that he wouldn't make a top pick based solely on need. A plethora of centres being considered first-rounders helped the Maple Leafs get stronger down the middle.
"If the best player available's a centre, then we'll take him. If the best player available's another defenceman, then we'll stockpile another one," Nonis said Friday. "The odds of us picking a centre are greater because of the fact that there are more quality centres available this year that will probably go in the first round. Just the sheer numbers alone make it, I think, a much greater possibility."