Leafs pick Gauthier contains opposition

Frederik Gauthier hopes to one day exchange the red maple leaf on his crest for a blue one.

For now Toronto’s 2013 first round draft pick is embracing his role as an effective shutdown forward on Team Canada’s world junior team.

“My tournament has been good so far,” Gauthier said following Canada’s 8-0 quarterfinal romp over Denmark on Friday night. “The team has also been good so far, and we’re just preparing for the next game,” he said as the host country prepares for a semifinal matchup versus Slovakia.

Gauthier’s offensive prowess – and weakness – we’re both on display on Canada’s third goal, scored in the second period as the centre’s line along with wingers Lawson Crouse and Nick Ritchie sustained heavy pressure in the Danish zone. As the forwards buzzed, Gauthier missed what looked like an open net. But, not giving up on the play, an opportunistic Gauthier retrieved the puck and found Crouse for the marker.

“When we get the puck down low with me, him and Ritchie, it’s nice,” said Crouse of his linemates who are all listed at 6-foot-3 or taller. “It’s hard to contain our big frames. when we get our feet moving, it something.”

Gauthier, who plays for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, is one half of Canada’s top penalty killing forward duo along with captain Curtis Lazar. The Canadians killed off all three Denmark penalties in the quarterfinal game and are third best in the tournament with a 94.1% efficiency (1-for-17) in five outings.

“Freddy’s awesome in the faceoff circle,” said Lazar. “That’s one area I take a pride in too. So if it’s on the right side, I’m on my backhand. But I can let him take draws anywhere, he’s going to win them.

Just his work ethic, getting up the ice, I think we understand what it takes to kill penalties. Sacrificing yourself, trying to fill those lanes, and making it hard (for opponents) on the power play.”

With a penchant for winning faceoffs while not providing a consistent scoring touch, the 19-year-old plays in the mold of former Leaf and PK specialist Jay McClement. With the surplus of bottom-six forward on the Leafs’ roster, he’ll likely open next season with the Marlies.

But even if the next two games – with the latter hopefully for gold – are the last appearances at ACC for Gauthier for a while, the Leaf hopeful relishes the rabid atmosphere of the building that he aspires to make his home rink.

“It was loud tonight, and it was really amazing,” he said.

(Photo credit: HockeysFuture.com)