Will Smith Cutter Gauthier split

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Will Smith and Cutter Gauthier will be among the top NHL prospects in the spotlight for Boston College when it faces the University of Denver in the NCAA championship game at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday (6 p.m. ET; ESPN2).  

Smith (San Jose Sharks), a freshman forward, scored twice and Gauthier (Anaheim Ducks), a sophomore forward, added a goal to lead BC to a 4-0 win against Michigan in a national semifinal game Thursday.

Denver defeated Boston University 2-1 in overtime in the other semifinal Thursday.

“Anytime someone commits to Boston College it's to win championships, and we have an opportunity for that on Saturday,” Gauthier said. “Been super proud of our groups up to this point.” 

Gauthier scored his NCAA-leading 38th goal of the season in the victory and his 65 points (27 assists) in 40 games are second to Smith (71 points; 25 goals, 46 assists in 40 games) in collegiate hockey. Gauthier was also named the best forward at the 2024 IIHF World Championship, when he had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in seven games to help the United States win the gold medal.

The 20-year-old, selected by the Philadelphia Flyers with the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, was acquired by the Ducks in a trade for defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft on Jan. 8. He is expected to sign with Anaheim following the championship game.

“My goals and all that kind of stuff is pretty cool,” Gauthier said. “But that's in the future and that's kind of far away. And all the guys have mentioned to me is live in the moment, go day-by-day and whatever the case may be.

“I'm super excited to be here with the group of guys we have, and we came all this way to win a national championship.”

BC coach Greg Brown said Gauthier’s development as a 200-foot player is what makes him even more special, and ready for the next level. 

“Everyone notices the goals and the offense,” Brown said, “but two things: One, as a player, he's really expanded his game this year. We give him the toughest matchups most nights. He plays against a lot of other teams' first lines. He takes big draws in the defensive zone. He kills penalties now. So aside from his offensive abilities that everyone sees, he's really developed a 200-foot game. 

"And it's huge for our team, as a young team, to have a guy who is still young on the team but he can stabilize. When he gets out there, he can make sure not a lot of things go wrong. If we need to change the momentum, he does a great job of that too. 

“He's been enormous for our team.”

Like Gauthier, Smith’s season has been exceptional. The 19-year-old became the first BC freshman to register a 71-point season and matched the first-year totals of current Vegas Golden Knights center Jack Eichel (BU) and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor (Michigan) for the most by a collegiate freshman in the past 30 years.

“For Will to lead the country in scoring as a freshman is extremely impressive,” Brown said. “I guess he's got a lot of abilities, but his awareness of space and how to create space for his teammates is something that's really special for a young kid, a freshman.

“The familiarity with his linemates, so they know how to read him, also helps. But he can really see things that not a lot of kids see, especially that young.”

Smith was selected by the Sharks with the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. His four goals and one assist helped BC claim the Hockey East title over rival BU on March 23, and he had nine points (four goals, five assists) in seven games for the gold-medal winning U.S. at the World Junior Championships. 

And also like Gauthier, NHL plans will be on pause for Smith until after Saturday. 

“I remember the days I was watching (Columbus Blue Jackets and former BC forward) Johnny Gaudreau in the same Frozen Four,” Smith said. “So it's a dream come true. It would be unbelievable to get that trophy just like he did.”