With 21st overall pick, Canes land big forward in Julien Gauthier

Julien Gauthier is congratulated in the stands after being selected as the 21st overall pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo on June 24. (Timothy T. Ludwig/—Reuters)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Carolina Hurricanes passed on some big forwards with the 13th overall pick, but got perhaps the biggest and strongest in picking 6’4, 225-pound QMJHL forward Julien Gauthier at No. 21.

Gauthier, who had 41 goals but just 16 assists in 54 games for Val d’Or last season, was the only draft-eligible player to make Canada’s World Junior team last winter. He had two assists in five games in the tournament.

Gauthier is a right wing who will turn 19 in October, but already has an NHL body. When GM Ron Francis was interviewed by NBCSN he didn’t close the door on giving the Quebec-born player a shot at making the roster this fall.

Here’s what some draft experts and scouting services had to say about Gauthier:

International Scouting Services: Ranked No. 21, rated him the most overrated player in the draft.

“Gauthier plays RW on one of the best lines in the QMJHL with Beauregard and Mandat. He has played a lot of hockey on some big stages this year; being selected for Team QMJHL in the Russian Series, Team Canada U20 Team, and the Top Prospect Game. Gauthier is a powerful skater; he has great strides and impressive acceleration. He has a ton of offensive upside with natural scoring abilities; size, skating, hands, shot, and offensive instincts, but will need to show more consistency in play away from the puck and in the use of his physical tools. When he does use his frame to his advantage; he doesn’t hit to hurt, he hits just hard enough to separate puck from carrier.”

ESPN’s Corey Pronman: Ranked No. 24, rated him the No. 7 shooter in the draft.

“Gauthier was one of the top goal scorers in the CHL this season, and he was the only draft-eligible player to make Team Canada’s team at the WJC. Gauthier is an exciting and dynamic scorer who brings a lot of plus physical attributes to the table. He is a 6-foot-4 forward who is a good skater, and I’d classify him as a high-end one for a big man. Gauthier is a highly skilled puck handler who can dangle and create highlight-reel plays. Gauthier uses his size, competes for space and pucks well, and gets to the dirty areas. His defensive game could use some work, though, as he can be a little loose on his positioning.”

NHL Central Scouting: Ranked No. 12 among North American skaters.

“He’s a big guy that doesn’t have any holes in his game. His hockey sense is good. You know he can shoot and score.”

The Hockey News: Ranked No. 15.

“In terms of exactly what kind of player Gauthier is going to ultimately be, scouts aren’t sure. That’s because in his first two years in Val d’Or, he scored 46 goals and 56 assists, but his goal numbers dwarfed his assists this season.”

TSN: Ranked No. 17.

“Trigger man. If the puck gets to him in the right spots around the net, he can score. Big and capable of imposing himself and making it difficult to deter him.” — TSN’s Craig Button