Cutter Gauthier developed into one of the top prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft as a left wing, but is ready to show what he can do at center.
“I just think I feel most comfortable and most dominant in the middle,” said Gauthier, who was chosen by the Philadelphia Flyers with the No. 5 picks.
Gauthier played center during most of his time developing in minor hockey in Arizona and Michigan. But during two seasons with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, he alternated between center and left wing.
He played some center during the first half of last season with the NTDP U-18 team, but fit best at left wing on a line with center Logan Cooley (Arizona Coyotes, No. 3) and right wing Jimmy Snuggerud (St. Louis Blues , No. 23).
Gauthier scored 34 goals in 54 games, second on the NTDP, and his 65 points were fifth.
With that much success playing most of the season at his second-best spot on the ice, the Flyers are confident Gauthier can be even better shifting back to center.
“He’s such a good skater that I think he’ll be fine in the middle,” Philadelphia special assistant to the general manager Daniel Briere said. “He’s powerful. In the games that we’ve seen him last year, we thought he played really, really well in the middle. It gives him the chance to be more involved in the play, gives him the chance to use his skating ability even more, because he can get to different areas really quickly because he’s so explosive.
“The fallback is he can play wing all day long if center doesn’t work. But right now, I see him as a center.”
Video: Discussing the Cutter Gauthier pick by the Flyers
There are certain nuances to playing in the middle Gauthier understands he’ll have to re-learn, but said he isn’t concerned about.
“Winning those face-offs, getting [back on] ‘D,’ being the first guy back supporting your defensemen, breaking out the puck,” he said. “Just kind of trying to improve on all those things next year leading up to hopefully playing for the Flyers one day.”
Gauthier will work on those details at Boston College this season, but BC coach Greg Brown doesn’t think it will be a tough transition.
“We’re of course ready to help him be reacclimated to the position, but all the reports said that he won’t need a lot of rehabilitation,” Brown said. “You do have to be more conscientious defensively. Usually you’re the first forward back in the [defensive] zone a lot of times. So he’ll have to definitely get used to being doing that.”
Intricacies of the position aside, Gauthier doesn’t think he’ll have to change much with how he plays to be as successful at center as he was on the wing.
“Just keep feeling confident, keep feeling comfortable in my game, grow every single day and work towards the end goal of playing in the National Hockey League one day,” he said. “I have that same mindset every single day and that’s what I’m going to do consistently to get to that next level.”