Why drafting Cutter Gauthier would be boon for the Detroit Red Wings at No. 8

Detroit Free Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The interview with the Detroit Red Wings was a highlight for Cutter Gauthier, a big, versatile forward who would be a terrific addition for the Wings at the No. 8 pick in the upcoming NHL draft.

By the time prospects get to the combine, teams know what they can do on the ice. Spending 20 minutes with a player is a chance to see more of his personality. For a guy like Gauthier, who grew up playing hockey in the Detroit area, coming face-to-face with Steve Yzerman was a thrill and a test.

“I was at a loss for words so I stuttered a little bit,” Gauthier told the Free Press on  Saturday. “Talking to him and having him ask me questions and wanting to know about me is pretty cool. Seeing what a legend he is, it was definitely breathtaking speaking to him.”

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Shane Wright, Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky are expected to be the top three picks when the first round of the draft is held July 7 in Montreal, but after that, it’s murkier. Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, said, “I think it’s going to be one of the most unpredictable in a long time.” Marr placed Gauthier (6-foot-3, 201 pounds) third on Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, up from sixth at the midterm.

“His play during the course of the year was very consistent and he’s a player that competes with all of his assets, and he’s the complete package of size, skill, smarts,” Marr said. “The consistency, and that’s a hard thing to achieve at that age. He’s a very motivated individual, highly competitive. He’s matured his game to where he’s become the complete package.”

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Gauthier was born in Sweden while his dad, Sean, played hockey for Skellefteå, but the family moved to Michigan and Gauthier began his hockey journey with the Honeybaked hockey youth program. He joined the NTDP in 2020-21, recording 58 points in 76 NTDP/USHL games. This past season, he posted 93 points in 76 NTDP/USHL games, including 34 goals with the U-18s, playing under NTDP coach Adam Nightingale, who was an assistant with the Wings from 2017-20. (Nightingale was hired by Michigan State last month.)

Cooley, an NTDP teammate, described Gauthier as “really easy to play with because of how explosive he is. His shot, too, it’s an NHL shot. He’s going to be a heck of a player.”

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Gauthier is committed to Boston College for 2022-23, where he’ll play center. He has the versatility to play that position or left wing, but is eager to thrive in the middle.

“I felt pretty dominant the past few years when I was at the center position, controlling the pace of play, defensive and offensively,” Gauthier said. “I’m extremely excited to start my career at Boston College.”

Gauthier has an answer ready for teams wanting to know why he should be their pick: “I can play any position whether it’s power play, PK, a physical game or a finesse game. I think I’m the whole package and I’ll do whatever it takes to win. And then I think one last thing to touch on that is I’m a great leader. Off the ice, I like to push guys to the next level, and I think it’s good to have that in the locker room to make it a better environment.”

Gauthier’s potential as a No. 1 center is why he appeals to the Wings. Since Yzerman was named general manager in 2019, he has mostly used his top picks on defensemen — Moritz Seider at No. 6 overall in 2019, and Simon Edvinsson at the same spot last year. Lucas Raymond, the No. 4 pick in 2020, plays wing.

Should Gauthier be available when the Wings pick, he’d be an excellent addition to the rebuild. He plays with pace and patience, making skilled passes and using his size to hold off defenders. He’s an agile skater with a powerful stride who excels at carrying the puck and can shoot from anywhere.

“I think I’d fit well with any team, especially the Detroit Red Wings,” Gauthier said. “I’d be a big power forward with lots of skill in their lineup, and I think I’d be a key, crucial part in their success moving forward.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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