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FUTURE STAR? Flyers Take Cutter Gauthier in 1st Round of NHL Draft

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Cutter Gauthier, Philadelphia Flyers
Power forward Cutter Gauthier meets the media after being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers. Photo: Zack Hill.

The Philadelphia Flyers, needing to replenish their farm system, took a step in that direction Thursday night by selecting center/left winger Cutter Gauthier with the No. 5 overall pick in the first round.

The draft, held in Montreal, will conclude with Rounds 2-7 starting at 11 a.m. Friday. It will be shown on the NHL Network and live-streamed on ESPN+.

Gauthier, a 6-foot-2 1/2, 200-pounder, had 65 points (34 goals, 31 points) in 54 games this season for the United States Development Program. He also raised his stock by finishing in the top-10 in five fitness categories at the Scouting Combine.

“He’s a late-season riser,” said Brock Otten, scouting director for McKeen’s Hockey, “… and he plays a very pro-style game.”

Gauthier, a prototypical power forward who has good speed and a powerful shot, doesn’t lack confidence.

He said he plans to spend a year at Boston College and then play for the Flyers. Born in Sweden when his dad was playing professionally there, Gauthier grew up in Arizona. He called himself “the complete package.”

Gauthier has lots of qualities the Flyers need.

“He’s physical. He scores goals. He has good hands,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “It’s really hard to find a player who can be a potential power forward in the National Hockey League. He has a lot of those attributes.”

‘Surreal moment’

“Surreal moment” is how Gauthier described getting drafted by the Flyers.

“It’s everything I dreamed of growing up, hearing my name called some day,” he said. “I’m so happy that the Philadelphia Flyers are the ones to do it. I’m super excited for the future.”

Gauthier, 18, will be a freshman at Boston College.

“It’s not going to take him long to get to the NHL,” Otten said. “He’s not going to need much time in college or in the AHL to be an NHL player. At the least, he projects as a very solid No. 2 or 3 center. … He plays physical, he can play any role. He’s kind of a Swiss Army knife. He’s got a big shot and he can skate. He’s not the most creative player — he’s a very straight-line player — and I think that’s why he’s more a safe bet as opposed to a high-upside bet.”

Gauthier is expected to be a center in the NHL, but says he will play wherever needed and is also comfortable at either wing. He tries to model his game after Winnipeg teammates Mark Scheifele and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Scheifele had 29 goals last season, and Dubois scored 28.

Complete package

Otten called Gauthier “the type of player you win playoff games with. He’s hard-nosed, physical, quick.”

Gauthier is a “Jeff Carter-type, and maybe a little more physical than Carter. That would be his high ceiling, a best-case scenario,” Otten said.

He called him the third-best center in the draft, behind only Shane Wright and Logan Cooley.

Earlier in the draft, big left winger Juraj Slafkovsky went No. 1 to Montreal, becoming the first Slovakian to be chosen with the top pick.

New Jersey needed a left winger instead of a center and had to be disappointed that Slafkovsky was selected ahead of them. So they switched gears and picked another Slovakian, righthanded defenseman Simon Nemec.

Arizona chose center Cooley at No. 3, and the Pittsburgh native became the highest-drafted Pennsylvania-born player ever. R.J. Umberger, a former Flyer, had been the highest (16th overall in 2001).

Wright, a center who had been projected to go No. 1 overall, slipped to No. 4 and was nabbed by Seattle, coached by Dave Hakstol.

Quality choices

That left the Flyers with several quality choices, including Gauthier, center/right winger Matt Savoie, defenseman David Jiricek, and right winger Joakim Kemell.

The Philadelphia Flyers have chosen a forward with six of their last seven first-round picks.

They haven’t hit a first-round home run — that is, chosen a player who is now considered a star — since taking center Sean Couturier with the No. 8 overall pick in 2011. Couturier had been considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, but he dropped slightly after getting off to a slow start and contracting mono during his last season for Drummondville before the draft.

Will Gauthier have star power down the road?

Most scouts believe he will.

Breakaways

Gauthier noted that his dad, Sean, was a goalie for the Reading Royals, and that he met his future wife, Kim, while playing there. … Gauthier will be at the Flyers’ development camp, which will start with on-ice drills Monday in Voorhees. … The Flyers had a top-five pick for just the eighth time in franchise history — and first time since 2017 (Nolan Patrick). … Jiricek went to Columbus at No. 6, and Savoie went to Buffalo at No. 9. … Gauthier said his first name came from something his grandmother read in a Swedish cookbook. … Fletcher on Gauthier: “He has lots of energy and certainly has lots of juice to him, both on and off the ice.” … The Flyers tried but didn’t land Alex DeBrincat in a trade with Chicago. He was dealt to Ottawa.

Flyers’ Quest for Alex DeBrincat Denied; Johnny Gaudreau Next Target?

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