Deep Dive: Cutter Gauthier continues to show that he’s a special talent
With every opportunity he’s given on the ice, Cutter Gauthier further cements the case that he’s a unique talent.
His athletic tools are his calling card. I project his speed, strength, and balance on his skates to all be high-end at the NHL level. He can power through contact already, even against men.
That’s a fully grown professional hockey player he’s walling off, and it nearly becomes a clean chance at the netfront. His speed got him the step, and his power gave him the time to nearly corral the puck.
The speed for a player of his size is genuinely special.
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His first strides are tantamount to launching himself out of a cannon, and he’s adding manipulation to those first steps.
In that clip, he fakes a drive to the inside and forces the defender to turn to the middle of the ice and sprint backward. With a push off of his inside edge, Cutter takes the wide-open outside lane, and it’s a free entry.
The danger of speedy players is that they can run themselves into walls, trying to get separation and blowing by an enemy that’s playing too big of a gap.
Cutter recognizes the huge gap that his defender took and cut into the middle of the ice.
His teammate has a speed differential when he picks up the drop pass and a free lane to the net… except he loses the puck early in the sequence. Tough break.
The speed and the size have always been there. The hands have always been well above average. And now he’s putting it all together, using his gifts to make better decisions on the ice and drive play for his team.
But the calling card for Cutter has always been his shot. And yeah, he’s terrorizing professional goalies just like every other goalie he’s faced.
I don’t need to tell you what you saw here. There’s no immaculate detail to zoom in on. The kid has a cannon and he can pick a corner with a release like lightning.
He’s got all the finishing tricks, this time tucking a puck through the opening between the blocker and the chest protector.
It was his third goal (in 5 games of play!) that proved most impressive.
The hands and the skating to corral a difficult puck. The hands and the poise to make a move through a pressuring defender. And then the release to finish.
And Cutter isn’t just riding some sort of shooting percentage bender. He had nine shots on goal in today’s game against Denmark.
Through his first 3 games of the tournament, he had 16 shots. Most of them coming from the bottom 6 minutes.
He’s a factory churning out shots on goal, seemingly at will. He shoots first, second, third, and maybe, gets to asking questions somewhere down the line.
This shooter’s mentality will make you think that Cutter is purely a straight-ahead player. A “north-south” skater who attacks exclusively in straight lines.
In truth, Cutter is an extremely tactical player whose playmaking and east-west play come out during his forays through the neutral zone.
In this way, Cutter is somewhat like Russian super-prospect Matvei Michkov. Despite having extremely good vision and passing abilities, he trusts himself to score more than his teammates in almost any situation.
To maximize their offensive potential, both Cutter and Matvei will have to trust their teammates a bit more in the offensive zone. But they’re both smart hockey players, so I expect they’ll figure it out. Especially Michkov, whose mind seems genuinely one-of-one.
At this stage, Cutter is something like Kobe Bryant was in basketball. He knew all the ins-and-outs of playmaking and orchestration but ultimately trusted his own scoring abilities more than anything else. This is a trait that will most likely never fade, and it isn’t a bad trait.
As Cutter matures, he should become more practical and prudent in when to “call his own number” and when to set up a teammate with a better look at the net.
These are all natural parts of the development process. As the process continues, it only becomes more obvious that this is a player with special talent.
Today vs FRA
Mandatory credit: Johnny Ulecka