NHL Development Of First-Round Picks: Frederik Gauthier

nhl player development

NHL player development seems to always result in more questions than answers. How likely is it for a top pick to pan out? What makes a player a “steal”? Last Word On Hockey will be starting a new series on how to properly develop prospects from all different spots throughout the draft. This week’s piece involves draft picks in the back half of the first round and how they were used early in their careers.

NHL Player Development Of First-Round Picks

In the span of 2005 through 2015, there were 84 total selections made between 16th overall and 30th overall on forwards playing in North America. Looking at all 84 forwards, they were split into different categories. Those categories were “Forwards Deemed NHL-Ready and Brought In Immediately When Ready,” “Forwards Near NHL-Ready and Brought In Immediately When Near-Ready,” “Forwards Rushed Slightly,” “Forwards Rushed,” “Forwards Forced,” “A Little Patience,” “Patience,” and “Too Much Patience.” 

There were 16 forwards who fell into the fourth category, “forced,” on the list. Of those 16 players, three made their NHL impacts in their DY+4 seasons or later. Those players are Riley Sheahan, Frederik Gauthier, and Kenndal McArdle. In this piece, let’s look at Gauthier.

In this piece, we will be using stats from eliteprospects (raw stats) and hockey-reference (ice time). Additionally, the analytics we are using are as follows: even-strength offence goals above replacement (EVO), even-strength defence goals above replacement (EVD), wins above replacement (WAR) and goals above replacement (GAR). Those analytics are from evolving-hockey (subscription required). 

NHL Player Development Of Frederik Gauthier

Frederik Gauthier, drafted 21st overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, came out of the Rimouski Oceanic organization of the QMJHL. In his DY-1 season, however, he played for the College Esther-Blondin Phenix of the QMAAA. With them, he scored 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points in 39 games, for 1.308 points per game. That ranked 17th out of the aforementioned 84 forwards in DY-1 production. Joining the Oceanic, Gauthier recorded 22 goals and 38 assists for 60 points in 62 games, for 0.968 points per game. That ranked 64th out of those same 84 forwards in DY production. After getting drafted, Gauthier would play two more QMJHL seasons and one AHL season, before making his extended jump to the NHL. 

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In his second QMJHL season, Gauthier scored 18 goals and 34 assists for 52 points in 54 games, for 0.963 points per game. That ranked 51st out of the remaining 82 forwards still outside the NHL in DY+1 production. Finally, in his last QMJHL season, Gauthier scored 16 goals and assists for 32 points in 37 games, for 0.865 points per game. That ranked 42nd out of the remaining 70 forwards in DY+2 production. Making the jump to professional hockey, Gauthier played with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. In 56 AHL games, he scored six goals and 12 assists for 18 points, for 0.321 points per game. That ranked 37th out of the 46 forwards still outside the NHL in DY+3 production.  

How Frederik Gauthier Was Used

In his second professional season, Gauthier would see an extended stay in the NHL. However, he still spent some time in the AHL with the Marlies. In 46 AHL games, he scored four goals and nine assists for 13 points. Meanwhile, he earned a 21-game stay in the NHL, where he averaged 9:42 time on ice per game. With that role, Gauthier scored just two goals and three total points. Analytically, he actually was solid. His EVO (1.5) and EVD (1.6) were both strong considering his small role and stay. Overall, Gauthier’s whole game was strong, evidenced by his WAR (0.3) and GAR (1.8) being decent, but not eye-opening. 

Despite a surprisingly strong rookie season, albeit in a small sample, Gauthier would play more at the AHL level and less in the NHL. Playing 57 AHL games, Gauthier scored seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points. Gauthier would draw into just nine games, averaging 8:45 per game. In that very small role and sample, he scored just one goal. Unsurprisingly, his analytics took a hit because of that. His EVO (-0.9) and EVD (-1.9) were on the opposite end of his rookie season scores. That led to his WAR (-0.4) and GAR (-2.2) to follow suit. It was an ugly second season for Gauthier. 

Frederik Gauthier Gets A Full Season In Year Three

Finally, in his third season playing in the NHL, he finally saw a full year with the big club. Playing in 70 games, he averaged a paltry 8:22 per game. Despite the very small role yet again, Gauthier scored three goals and 11 assists for 14 points. His analytics also returned to his rookie-year scores. His EVO (3.3) and EVD (1.7) became new career highs. Again, due to his strong even-strength numbers, his WAR (0.8) and GAR (4.1) reflected that. 

After that third season in 2018-19, Gauthier would play one more season with the Leafs. Playing 61 games, he scored 12 goals. The following season, in 2020-21, he would join the Arizona Coyotes but only play two NHL games with them and just 18 AHL contests. Gauthier left the Coyotes and joined the New Jersey Devils for the 2021-22 season, where he played just eight NHL games, with no points. He also played 51 AHL games with them, scoring 32 points. In 2022-23, he left for Europe, joining HC Ajoie of the NL (Switzerland). He has five points in 15 games thus far with them. 
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Gauthier Didn’t Pan Out, Leaving Better Options On The Board In 2013

As always, it’s important to remember hindsight is 20/20. It’s impossible to know at the time of the draft who pans out and who does not. But, after Gauthier was selected at 21 by the Leafs, the likes of Andre Burakovsky, Shea Theodore, and Ryan Hartman rounded out the first round, while fellow QMJHLer, Adam Erne, went early in the second. It’s easier to write off the Leafs not biting on Burakovsky and Theodore, as Burakovsky played overseas and Theodore is a defenseman, thus may not have been heavily considered at the draft table. However, Hartman played in the OHL, where he produced over a point per game for both of the OHL seasons he played. That is a feat Gauthier did not achieve at the QMJHL level in three years. He has since played 452 career NHL games (and counting) and scored 198 points (and counting). 
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Meanwhile, Erne produced over a point per game in the QMJHL in his draft year and the subsequent two seasons played there. Again, a feat Gauthier did not achieve in that same span. Erne has since gone on to play 299 NHL games (and counting) and 73 points (and counting). Meanwhile, Gauthier produced 31 career points in 178 games and has since left the NHL for Europe. 

Junior league stats via Elite Prospects, NHL stats via Hockey Reference, NHL analytics via Evolving Hockey