When Taylor Gauthier shows up at Canada’s World Junior selection camp Nov. 16 in Red Deer, he’ll do so armed with no shortage of perspective and, surprisingly given what he has endured the past two years, a healthy dose of confidence. The perspective comes from accepting the fact that in the past two NHL drafts, 41 goalies have been selected among the 434 players chosen and Gauthier wasn’t among them. The confidence comes from knowing that Hockey Canada obviously sees something in him that NHL teams haven’t yet.
“I hope people see that I might have gotten passed over, but I still personally think I’m one of the best goalies in Canada,” Gauthier told TheHockeyNews.com. “Whether or not I get drafted, I don’t think that defines who I am as a person and a goalie. I think I can still stop the puck pretty well and if I get the chance to wear the maple leaf on Boxing Day, I can give the team just as good of a chance as if anyone else was in net.”
Of the five goalies Canada invited to the camp, three of them have not been drafted. Brett Brochu was also passed over in 2020 and Tristan Lennox is eligible for the first time in 2021. In fact, if Gauthier makes the team, this might be the first time since Canada has gone to its Program of Excellence format that a player has done that after going through two drafts without being selected. Hockey Canada will take three goalies to the tournament and those who follow prospects closely think it will likely be a choice between Gauthier and New York Rangers prospect Dylan Garand for the No. 1 spot.
One of the reasons Hockey Canada feels so comfortable with Gauthier is familiarity. He has been part of the Program of Excellence since he was 16 years old. In 2019, he was the No. 1 goalie for Canada’s under-18 team at the World Championship and helped backstop Canada to a gold medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament in 2018.
So we’ve established that Taylor Gauthier thinks he’s a really good goalie and Hockey Canada thinks he’s a really good goalie. And the Prince George Cougars of the Western League, where he’s been a workhorse playing 50 games last season and 55 the season before, think he’s a really good goalie. So what’s the deal with the NHL? Why does the best league in the world think Gauthier is, at best, the 42nd best draft eligible goalie of the past two seasons?
Well, scouts see a young man who has a good athletic base and has competed fiercely in the net for a pretty weak Prince George team the past two seasons. The Cougars have been out of the playoffs and Gauthier has posted a win-loss record of 31-56-7. “He’s really athletic and when he gets outside his structure, he gets all over the place,” one scout said. “He gets a little scrambly. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying he’s Dominik Hasek, but it’s that kind of style, which can be a little scary. And when Dominik Hasek was being rated early on, no one thought he’d be Hasek.” And part of that comes with playing for a team that has been as weak as the Cougars. “Bad teams always leave you guessing,” another scout said. “And he’s played for a bad team that really hasn’t shed a good light on him.”
Gauthier was invited to the Boston Bruins development camp after going undrafted in 2019, but that did not take the sting away from the experience. Thinking he would be selected, Gauthier sat through all seven rounds at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. To make it even more painful, so did his parents and his grandmother and an uncle, as well as an uncle and aunt from Oklahoma and another aunt who made the trip from Prince Edward Island.
“The first time I got passed over, I took it a little more personally because it was the first time not making a team or getting cut or anything like that,” Gauthier said. “I didn’t really know how to handle the rejection, but having to do that really helped me mature as a person and a player. This year, I thought, ‘If it happens, it happens and if not, it’s just another opportunity for me to put a chip on my shoulder and show teams that they’re missing out on not picking me.”
A good run at this year’s WJC, followed hopefully by a strong season in the WHL, would allow him to do just that. If that happens, whenever it is and whatever form the NHL draft takes in 2021, Taylor Gauthier will be impossible to ignore.