The Toronto Maple Leafs 2013 1st round pick exceeded beyond many fans expectations so far this season.
When the 2018-19 season began, Toronto Maple Leafs fans learned that Frederik Gauthier cracked a spot on the main roster. To say the early response was less than positive would be an understatement.
Yet the season has moved past the midway mark and Gauthier remains a mainstay in the Leafs lineup. It’s because Mike Babcock has little other options to chose from at the forward position, but because Gauthier has proven to be a valuable piece of the bottom-6.
While the offensive numbers are not the highest on the team by any means, his overall play at both ends of the ice has earned him a permanent spot on the roster. His development trajectory seems to be heading towards the 4th line mainstay that the Leafs envisioned when drafting him more than five years ago.
In today’s piece, we will look at why Gauthier has been a pleasant surprise for the Leafs so far this season.
No offence, No Worries
Gauthier was never meant to be the Leafs best offensive center; instead, his calling card has been his defensive play. The numbers so far this season reflect that.
The underlying metrics are where Gauthier truly shines and his impact on team defence. He has a 57.89 GF%, 50.43 SCF%, a 53.09 HDSCF% at even strength, and a 2.5 GAR. Those have him placed, 10th, 15th, 12th, and 11th on the team respectively.
While all of the stats may not be eye-popping and astounding, it becomes more impressive when you consider he has been given limited minutes (9:15 TOI) and his zone starts are overwhelmingly in the defensive zone (66.2).
The fact his numbers have been near average in his limited minutes is fairly impressive for a guy many had no expectations for heading into the season.
Eye Test vs. Numbers
So while he has had such little offence to speak of, the underlying stats seem to suggest he has done his part. This isn’t to say that Gauthier has been flawless, as there have been some underlying stats that show the polar opposite.
Gauthier has a Corsi-for% of 47.97, a -3 Relative Corsi-For, a 45.68 SF%, and a 42.86 HDGF%. This has him ranked 19th, 18th, 15th, and 20th on the team. In addition, he has the 4th worst Game Score amongst all Leafs players this season at 5.82.
What this all means is that whenever he is on the ice, his teammates have been out-possessed, out-shot, and out-scored in high percentage areas. While his limited ice time and role play some factor in this, it would be nice to see Gauthier’s numbers in all of these areas improve as the season progresses.
Despite this, the eye test suggests he has been making a positive impact on the team. Whether it’s his speed, his play in transition, his defensive positioning, his size, or his shot, Gauthier has been mostly making a positive impact on the team whenever he’s on the ice.
There are some parts of the game that Gauthier needs to work on, no doubt, but overall seems to be doing his part just fine.
When he began the season on the Leafs 4th line, very few expected he would last in that role last October. Yet we’re now in January and Gauthier has proved many fans and analytics wrong.
Despite a limited offensive showing, Gauthier’s impact on the team is highlighted by most of the underlying stats. There are some areas he needs to work on as the year progresses, but the eye test shows that he should get there in due time.
Should he continue to progress his all-around game to new heights and add a bit more offence to his tool kit, the Leafs may finally have their long-awaited answer to the 4th line centre position for years to come.
Currently signed on a cheap 2-year contract, that’s all you can ask for from The Goat.
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