Julien Gauthier. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Thanks to being gym rat since before his 10th birthday – you read that right – Val-d'Or's Julien Gauthier has a base that puts other prospects to shame.
When Julien Gauthier was nine, his father asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. The dutiful son said he wanted to be a hockey player, so his dad unfolded a plan for success: “When you’re young, you don’t know what it takes,” Gauthier said. “From that day on, I’ve gone to the gym.”
Yep, that’s right: Gauthier has been hitting the gym since age nine. He wasn’t doing heavy squats or anything of that ilk at the start, but he was building a solid base. And his dad wasn’t just some loon. He was a successful body builder who was named Mr. Canada when he was 18. Gauthier’s grandfather was also a Mr. Canada winner, as well as runner-up for Mr. Universe and a wrestler, while Gauthier’s uncle is ex-NHL defenseman Denis Gauthier. So athleticism runs in the family. As for that old saying about weightlifting stunting your growth? Gauthier is already 6-foot-4 and 224 pounds – so he’ll probably be OK.
Gauthier, a late 1997 birthday and projected first-round pick in 2016, has been one of the leading snipers in the QMJHL, playing on a very good Val-d’Or team. His goal-scoring ability was almost weird early on, as his 20 goals vs. four assists made him a “Cy Young” candidate, much to the delight of his teammates. “All the guys were laughing,” he said. “But it’s not something I can control.”
But the opposition isn’t laughing: Gauthier is a tough out on the ice (and the assists are slowly coming, along with more goals). “He reminds me of a more consistent Anthony Mantha,” said one NHL scout. “More powerful. When he’s going, he’s fun to watch – a man playing with boys.”
That gym-built core has resulted in big legs, a big trunk and a great motor. He parlayed a solid second half last season into an invite to Canada’s summer world junior camp, where he lapped up the experience. “The caliber was really strong,” Gauthier said. “It was the hardest practice I ever had because of the players there.”
His exploits this season kept him on Hockey Canada’s radar and the big right winger was one of only five ‘Q’ players to make the final world junior camp. Amazing to think there’s more to discover with the young man, who could truly become a power forward if he develops a little more snarl. “He definitely has the potential,” said the scout. “He could hurt you.”
Adding another reason to fear Julien Gauthier? That would be scary.