Flyers’ Top Prospect Cutter Gauthier Racks Up Points in NCAA.
Over the summer, the Flyers selected Cutter Gauthier from the USNTDP with the 5th overall pick. It wasn’t seen as a blatant reach, but there were a fair number of doubters in the ceiling of the big power forward from Arizona. He was seen by some as a guy who would make the NHL, but fail to graduate from a middle-six role.
Well, it isn’t the NHL yet, but Cutter is doing a damn fine job of quelling any doubt in his ceiling down in the NCAA.
In the six games he’s played for Boston College, Cutter has amassed five goals and two assists for seven points. He’s over a point per game as a freshman in college, where an eighteen year old can be matched against a line of twenty four year old, fourth year players.
The numbers alone are impressive. What’s even more impressive is how he’s been racking up the points, and the goals in particular. At times, he has shown flat out dazzling skill.
Now, let’s admit it: the first defender blew a tire and fell to the ice. That certainly helps in the endeavor of scoring goals on the rush. But there is still something to see in what Cutter did to beat the first defender.
Cutter Gauthier gathered speed off the catch and cut to the outside so fast that the defender was put in scramble mode to close that lane off and avoid getting beat wide. He was forced to scramble so desperately that he lost his balance, and took himself out of the play.
That is dynamic skating ability, and he’s flashed it many times in his games at college. His combination of stride power and clean edgework is not normal in a kid as big as Cutter.
He got some help with the first guy wiping out, we can all readily admit that. However, he had no help in the way he beat the second.
Deking through a defender’s poke-check and cutting to the middle before burying a backhand top-shelf? That is ridiculous.
And no, dynamic goals off the rush like this are certainly not a one-off. Here was his first goal in the NCAA:
Throwing the puck into space where only he can get it is the sort of simple but effective stickhandling that gets underrated for its utility in the NHL. But the real attention grabber is the skating.
The way he’s able to explode and split the two defenders before they can turn to match his strides is impressive. And yes, that was a tripping penalty he took from the defenseman #4. Boston College went to the Power-Play because of that trip right after Cutter scored.
Despite being tripped, Cutter held his edge and maintained balance before settling himself and beating the goalie five-hole. None of this is normal behavior from a freshman in his first NCAA game.
The skating ability has been a bit of a revelation for some. It was usually understated before the draft just how athletic he is. But one thing that’s always been well-advertised is his release. He was said to have one of the best shots in the draft this year.
And he’s shown that, too!
Look at the way he has to receive this puck in traffic. It isn’t put right onto his tape, and it isn’t an easy pass from his teammate. It’s a heavy bounce off of a goalie’s pad. He reacts and receives the puck cleanly by kicking off of his skate, and he damn near sets himself up for a one-timer. That’s how fast the subsequent release is.
Not one part of that is easy, and I’m pretty sure half of the Flyers’ NHL roster–if not more–would fail to convert on that play.
And then there’s the matter of his shooting from more conventional platforms. Here, he has time to line-up a wrist-shot from the top of the circle. And… the video speaks for itself.
Yup, the kid has one hell of a shot.
Another one of his calling cards from the draft was his competitive drive. Cutter, himself, called his “compete levels” out as the one trait he thinks gets recognized but not recognized enough in his game.
To put it quaintly, the kid claims to have a dawg in him.
Well, in his very first shift, he plastered someone to the boards in an overzealous display of physicality that landed him in the penalty box. So, there’s a feather in the cap of his compete levels, if not a small indictment of his discipline.
But he isn’t just willing to dole out punishment, he’s willing to absorb it without being deterred from making the next play.
A chip off the boards into open space is hardly the paragon of playmaking brilliance. It isn’t a tape-to-tape behind the back pass, but there’s utility in simple plays like this. Especially at the NHL level. When the forecheck is baring down heavily on you, sometimes the best thing you can do is put the puck into space and trust your teammate to make a play.
In this case, Nikita Nesterenko makes the play and gives Cutter what was–at the time–his first NCAA assist.
The most impressive part?
Boston College’s current roster is not exactly replete with players who are ready to make a play at any given moment. Without insulting any of them in particular, as there are certainly some fine players on the roster, they are a club that struggles to score.
Apart from Cutter, of course, who seems to have absolutely no trouble filling the net.
Adam Fantilli–one of the top players eligible for the generational 2023 NHL Entry Draft–is on an Eichel pace with 22 points in 11 college games. He is one of the best prospects I’ve ever seen.
But Fantilli has loads of help from not just future NHL-pros, but likely future NHL-stars like Luke Hughes. So, one might expect him–to a certain extent–to rack up points if he has the skills to back up his end of the bargain. Which he does.
Cutter Gauthier has not had a Luke Hughes like running mate, or a consortium of first round draft-picks insulating him in the lineup.
It hasn’t stopped him from filling the net at a pace that simply is not normal for a freshman.
Mandatory Credit: Johnny Ulecka