The distance from Tampere, Finland to the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees is 4,108 miles as the puck flies.
Tampere is where Flyers top prospect Cutter Gauthier is tearing up the World Championships for Team USA.
Gauthier scored the winning goal in undefeated Team USA’s 3-0 victory over Denmark on Saturday. The power-play goal was a quick wrist shot after a nice move to evade a defender. The goal snapped a scoreless tie at 9:51 of the third period.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) May 20, 2023
To see that kind of elite-level skill begs the question: Can Gauthier, 19, become the big-time player the Flyers desperately need?
The care and nurturing of young hockey players is a fragile exercise. At this level, every player has talent. Intangibles, work ethic, internal drive and will to succeed can help forge a legitimate NHL star.
Gauthier is the second-youngest player on the roster. Being selected for Team USA is a big deal. The opposition isn’t an NHL All-Star roster, but there are NHL-quality players on each country’s roster. The fact that Gauthier is playing so well against older players in a major international tournament has to please Flyers management.
The 6-2, 200-pound forward was the most dominant player on the ice against Denmark, earning Player of the Game honors. He had a game-high nine shots. Through two periods, he had eight of the Americans’ 25 shots.
“It felt great,” Gauthier told reporters about his goal. “I think you could see a little of that in the celebration.
“It was nice to get that one after having so many shots. I don’t know how many saves he made, but it was nice to get one and help the guys get the win.”
His play was described by reporter Andy Potts on the IIHF website (under this headline: Gauthier cuts through Danish resistance):
“[Denmark goalie George] Sorensen was in for a busy reintroduction to IIHF play. At times the middle frame turned into a personal duel between him and Gauthier.
“The young American forward was always a busy presence in the Danish zone. He fashioned a good early chance for T.J. Tynan, who fired wide of an open net. Then Gauthier came closest to opening the scoring with a testing wrister that Sorensen just managed to deflect onto the post and away.”
Gauthier had 13:45 of ice time on 16 shifts. Former Flyer Patrick Brown had 17 shifts for 11:53 of ice time. Flyers defenseman Ronnie Attard did not dress.
Gauthier has three goals in five games. He seems right on track for a No. 5 overall draft pick.
Gauthier’s seasoning will continue in the fall. He announced, with the Flyers’ blessing, that he will return to Boston College for his sophomore season.
His Team USA linemates are older and play professionally — 21-year-old Carter Mazur (Red Wings system) and 31-year-old Nanan, who last played for the Los Angeles Kings in 2022.
“They’re both pros now,” Gauthier said in a between-periods interview on TSN. “It’s fun to play with some older guys, teach me a little bit, things on and off the ice. We’ve built a good relationship off the ice and it seems to translate on the ice.”
Team USA plays France (0-1-2) today at 1:20 p.m. (Philadelphia time) on NHL Network.
Flyers fans are more interested in the 16.3 miles from Voorhees to the Wells Fargo Center than the 4,108 miles from Finland. They read about Gauthier and see his highlights and wonder if he is the answer to a dispirited hockey team’s prayers.
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Today’s Playoff Game:
Game 2: Dallas at Vegas, 3 p.m., on ABC.