The second half of the NHL’s regular season is just approaching, and the New York Rangers have placed themselves in the upper echelon of NHL teams by concluding the first half with a 19-7-4 record, positioning themselves for a potentially long playoff run. Sadly, that would come at the cost of a low first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, but this year’s group of prospects is looking to be substantial, possibly the best crop of prospects the NHL has ever seen. The value of a first-round pick is at an all-time high when it comes to the 2022 draft class, making the cost of a lengthy playoff run more bearable in comparison to other seasons. With all things considered, what could the Rangers be looking for come draft day? Well, I have a player in mind.
The Swedish Born American
With an average prospect ranking of #23 by major publications, Cutter Gauthier is a name that draft enthusiasts are starting to take more notice of. Born in Skelleftea, Sweden, Gauthier comes from a hockey family, with his dad Sean (a former Winnipeg Jets draft pick) most notably playing goaltender in the American Hockey League and HockeyAllsvenskan. After retiring from professional hockey, Sean and his family moved to the United States, living between Arizona and Michigan, where Cutter would join the Detroit Honeybaked program, playing alongside other prospects such as Spencer Sova and Max Namestikov.
To say the move to Michigan was good for him is an understatement. He shined in Detroit, where he showed off his talents of goal scoring, and physical prowess, showing great potential to be an effective power forward at the NHL level. Due to his strong play at the U16 level, Gauthier gained the attention of the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), so much so that he committed to joining them for the next season of hockey. In his rookie year with the USNTDP Juniors, Gauthier registered 21 points in 32 games, which saw him ranked sixth in points on his team.
At the moment, Cutter is currently playing with the U18 team, where he has established himself as a point per game player with 26 points across 26 contests, sharing the same point total with another top prospect in the 2022 Draft class in Rutger McGroarty, who currently has an average draft ranking of #17. The key to Gautier’s success in the USNTDP was his skating. Standing at six-foot-two, the 17-year-old can skate very well. His strong strides can be deceptively quick in transition, which gives him the advantage over defenders who expect a slow skater in front of them. His physicality helps him when he’s in his end, as he checks the opposition efficiently during penalty kills. He is reliable in the defensive zone, only helping his versatility overall. With a commitment to Boston College next year, Gauthier will only better his game with the ever-so-competitive experience of the NCAA. While the resume looks good, the main question now is why should the Rangers pick him?
Why Should The Rangers Pick Him?
The New York Rangers should pick Cutter Gauthier because he plays very much like a current member of the Rangers roster. In my opinion, he plays very closely to the style of Chris Kreider. Kreider is a player who has been a consistent offensive force for the Rangers since 2014, posting multiple 40+ point seasons as a blueshirt, while also being used yearly as trade bait. With his value at an all-time high thanks to the impressive season he is currently having, the likelihood of trading him to another team is substantial. It also doesn’t help that the Rangers don’t have a lot of cap space and have to pay forwards Ryan Strome and Kappo Kakko to extensions this coming offseason.
Like Kreider, Gauthier has a great hockey IQ and is always in the right spot to score goals. He can be very effective on the power play, using his tall structure to give himself space in between the penalty killers to capitalize on an open scoring lane. Both players are also great passers. Gauthier, I would say, can be a better passer than Kreider at the NHL level over time. His quick passes in transition, or on the power play are freakishly good. The 17-year-old Gauthier will also grow a bit more, meaning he should project to be around six-foot-four at his final height, making him an inch taller than Kreider. All things considered, if the Rangers trade Chris Kreider to relieve cap pressure, which I maintain they should do, why not draft and develop a player who can fit the existing mold. The only question that now remains is, will Gauthier be available for the Rangers to pick in the first round?
Will He Be There?
He could be there. Specifically, I believe the Rangers have a solid chance of being able to draft Gauthier. He is gaining more attention recently, and with that attention, comes interest from other NHL teams. With a playoff run potentially on the horizon, that could affect whether or not the Rangers will have a pick between #25 and #30. I do predict them getting a pick around those numbers, but a team may like Cutter at #23 or #21. Though In the past two years, we have seen major talents fall hard in the draft. Ty Tullio and Martin Chromiak going in the fifth round in 2020 are prime examples. We have also seen some major reaches, most notably Tyler Boucher going to Ottawa 10th overall in 2021. The draft can be unpredictable, and realistically, I expect its unpredictability to continue in 2022.
To conclude, the Rangers have a chance to get a great player who fits the framework of Chris Kreider, while potentially exceeding his point totals as a member of the New York Rangers. If he is available to be picked, The Rangers should select him immediately without hesitation.