Saturday, August 3, 2019

Julien Gauthier Autographed Card

As I mentioned earlier this year, I went to Place Bell to see the Laval Rocket play the Charlotte Checkers during the Holidays and witnessed a game the Checkers dominated and where one goalie (Laval's Étienne Marcoux) and two skaters (one from each team) were clear standouts, in a nine-goal game won 5-4 by Charlotte. The Rocket's best skater was Michael McCarron, while the Checkers' (and the entire game's) best player was Julien Gauthier.

Still just 21, Gauthier just completed his second AHL season, nearly doubling his production, going from 16 goals and 25 points in 2017-18 to 27 goals and 45 points in 2018-19 as the Checkers won the AHL's Calder Cup championship.

He'd been a relatively quiet point-per-game player in the LHJMQ mostly suiting up with the Val d'Or Foreurs save for a playoff stint with the Saint John Sea Dogs, but posting 7 points in 7 games at the 2017 World Juniors - helping Team Canada secure a silver medal - justified his being a 2016 first-round pick.

A quick look at the Carolina Hurricanes' roster for the coming season shows there likely won't be room for him in the top-9 for the coming season, especially with almost all of the team's forwards being versatile:
Sebastian Aho, 22, C/LW, $8.454M cap hit through 2023-24
Jordan Staal, 30, C/LW, $6M through 2022-23
Teuvo Teravainen, 24, RW/LW, $5.M through 2023-24
Nino Niederreiter, 26, LW/RW, $5.25M through 2021-22
Ryan Dzingel, 27, C/LW/RW, $3.375M through 2020-21
Andrei Svechnikov, 19, LW/RW, $3.6M ELC through 2021-22
Erik Haula, 28, C/LW, $$2.75M for one more year
Brock McGinn, 25, LW/RW, $2.1M through 2020-21
Jordan Martinook, 27, C/RW/LW, $2M through 2020-21
Martin Necas, 20, C, $1.4M ELC  through 2021-22
What you want is to bring kids up in a way to maximize their chances of success. I could totally see Gauthier getting seasoned for another year while, say, Haula's contract runs out, then trying him beside Necas and Svechnikov - except maybe at that point Svechnikov is so good he plays with Aho and Teravainen full-time. It's a bit of a puzzle, to be honest.

But like most of the Canes, he is comfortable playing on either wing, and you can bet the 6'4", 225-pounder will just keep improving every year and getting in better and better shape; he is, after all, part of Canada's most physically fit family: his father is a former Mr. Canada, his uncle Denis Gauthier played in the NHL for 13 seasons, and his grandfather's generation spawned fitness kings and wresters the Rougeau Brothers, three athletes who spent decades performing in the then-WWF as a side job, like their fathers before them.

Maybe it's the fellow Pointe-Aux-Trembles native in me or maybe I just know something obvious when I see it, but I'm betting on this kid becoming an elite power forward from the ages of 24 to 32. Heck, I'm 6'2" myself, and my playing weight was around 210-220 pounds as a hard-nosed goalie, but even at my current near-300-pound state, having this kid in front of me  -again, this 21-year-old kid, I'm 40 - made me step back a bit, give him respect and space, when he signed this card in blue sharpie:
It's #12 in Upper Deck's 2017-18 Team Canada Juniors set, which means I can slot him in my Team Canada Project as a representative of jersey #12.

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