Amazing how two weeks can change everything. At first, Julien Gauthier was an after thought, the 13F on a team that still needed offense from RW, and basically glossing over him. Now an integral part of a key third line, Gauthier has shown that size, speed, and skill trifecta that made him desirable when the Rangers sent Joey Keane to Carolina for him. On November 1, Gauthier was a spare part. Now as November ends, re-signing Julien Gauthier is a must for the Rangers.
For starters, RW depth is still an issue for the Rangers. Even with a healthy Sammy Blais, the Rangers lack an offensive punch outside Kaapo Kakko at the position. Blais isn’t going to be mistaken for a skill forward, but he will be able to chip in offensively. Gauthier, on the other hand, does have a good amount of skill as a power forward.
Scoring depth is critical for any truly competing team. Kakko, as the #1 RW, is getting the top line minutes and finally putting up the scoring numbers we expected. Gauthier, as it stands right now, is the #2 scoring RW. He may play on the third line, but he’s their second best RW on the roster.
Critical Third Line Usage
While the bar may be on the floor in terms of RW depth, Gauthier has been showing he’s not just a flash in the pan. We saw the glimpses of what he could be. Now he’s flourishing with Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil.
Lafrenière – Chytil – Gauthier are now >50 TOI together. Per @EvolvingHockey there are 121 Forward lines at >50 TOI at 5v5, ranks of the line by category (SVA):
xGF%: 5th (67.45)
xGF/60: 1st (4.69, 20% higher than 2nd)
xGA/60: 69th (2.27)
Acutal GF%: 90th (41.04) pic.twitter.com/uME7aGp1gY
— Rob Luker (@RLuker12) November 27, 2021
That third line has been absolutely spectacular, and reminiscent of that Pouliot-Brassard-Zuccarello third line from the 2014 run. That’s the kind of depth that wins championships. At least for this season. Even if Gauthier never gets passed the third line, he’s been a driving force offensively, while slowly starting to creep up defensively.
The positive things here are Gauthier’s ability to drive play (xGF/60). His GF/60 is actually below his play driving, suggesting we might see more goals from that line in the immediate future.
His defensive metrics are less exciting, but they are heavily weighed down by a run of four out of five games with an individual xGA/60 over 0.8, which is a lot. But that is improving steadily, especially since this third line was put together.
As of now, re-signing Julien Gauthier is a must for the Rangers. Depth players are needed, and this is a clear position of weakness. Bonus points because the contract should be cheap and, should Gauthier explode on his new deal, be one of th better bargains in the NHL. It’s not a sure bet, but re-signing Julien Gauthier is as smart a bet as the Rangers can make right now.