Today marks the fourth day and fourth article in our reader week takeover of the Canes and Coffee site. You can find the first 3 posts here:
Today’s reader post
Submitted by Cory Fogg (Cory on Twitter)
The hockey season might still be three months away, but the buzz is slowly building around the Carolina Hurricanes. The trove of young talent accumulated by Ron Francis, has fueled an excitement in Raleigh that has not been seen for some time. Many of these prospects (Fleury, McKeown, Roy, etc.) will be in Raleigh this fall trying to earn a spot for training camp. So, too, will both of Carolina’s 2016 1st rounders Jake Bean and Julien Gauthier. Given the plethora of blue-line talent, it would be shocking to see Jake Bean donning the warning flag any time soon. Julien Gauthier, on the other hand, is a different story. Could we see Gauthier playing significant minutes Raleigh this season?
A look at the roster, as it stands now, shows the long odds on Gauthier making the team. The Staal-Nordstrom-Nestrasil line isn’t going anywhere. It’s one of the best defensive forward lines in hockey. Speculation at present suggests free agent addition Lee Stempniak joining Skinner and Rask on the top line, with the Super Scandinavians of Lindholm-Aho-Teravainen as the second scoring line. The fourth line is anybody’s pick of a combination of McClement-Stalberg-Di Giuseppe–Bickell, or any of a handful of young players. This would seem to cut down on the opportunities for Gauthier to make the team, and it does, but it’s vital to keep three things in mind in regards to the man soon-to-be-known-by-all as The Goat.
Gauthier is way better than his 21st draft position would indicate
We’re talking about a guy who, as recently as January, was discussed as one of the top 6 players in the draft, drawing many comparisons to Rick Nash. He slipped, and the Canes got very lucky. Further, though we rightly should take summer development camp results with a grain of salt, Gauthier DOMINATED at Canes Camp in July. Anyone watching his massive 6’4 frame fly down the ice, and his pinpoint shooting accuracy knows that the skill is definitely there (offensively anyway) for him to be a high-level NHL player sooner rather than later.
The Canes have a proven track record of letting rookies play
Jeff Skinner. Justin Faulk. Elias Lindholm. Noah Hanifin. Brett Pesce. Jaccob Slavin. All current Canes players who played major roles in their first professional seasons. Why? Because they earned it. If Gauthier comes in and proves that he is one of the top 9 forwards on the team, he’s going to get his shot. That said Gauthier has the size to play 4th line minutes too, though I think the Canes would likely go with a more defensively-sound option.
There is no AHL option here
Due to a rule with the Canadian junior circuit, Gauthier will not be seen in Charlotte for another two years. The Hurricanes either have to keep him, or return him to his junior team in Quebec. The Hurricanes would not bat an eye to return him to his junior team and save a year on his entry-level contract. Again, if Gauthier makes this team, it’s because he earned it.
Regardless of what happens this training camp, you’re likely to see Gauthier lighting the lamp in Raleigh sooner rather than later. DiGi, Stalberg, McClement and Nestrasil are all free agents after this season, and with the high possibility of a Cane being tapped to go play in Vegas, Gauthier will have a plethora of opportunities in seasons to come. As far as this season though, all we can say for sure is that Gauthier is definitely a player we will be keeping a close eye on when training camp gets underway.