When National Hockey League Central Scouting dropped its most recent rankings, Prince George Cougars goalie Taylor Gauthier was near the top among all Western Hockey League goalies.
The WHL goaltending sweetheart has entered the minds and hearts of the NHL scouting world with his tireless work ethic and outstanding performances – despite the record his team as garnered this season.
Born in Calgary, Alberta on Feb. 15, 2001, Gauthier has risen through the ranks of minor hockey as well as the WHL to become one of the premier goaltenders available at the upcoming NHL Draft in Vancouver.
Gauthier spoke with Caden Fanshaw of DUBNetwork last week about how he got his start between the pipes.
“I used to go to a lot of (Calgary) Hitmen games with my uncle,” Gauthier said. “That was when Justin Pogge was playing for the Hitmen. I always enjoyed watching him play.”
It just so happens that Pogge was also a member of the Cougars before being dealt to the Hitmen. Pogge was a highly-sought-after goaltender. He went on to be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Like many kids in Canada, Gauthier’s hockey roots got started in living rooms and basements with family and friends.
“I always remember being in my living room and having my dad throwing softballs at me,” said Gauthier. “We would play until I flinched and as soon as I flinched the game would be over.”
“It started from a really young age and I developed throughout the years and just never stopped loving it.”
Like many other hockey-playing kids, Gauthier participated in other sports. Baseball is a favourite among them.
“I used to play catcher in baseball,” Gauthier said. “Right from the start, I’ve always been drawn to being the centre of attention. Just so happens that the goalie is the centre of attention a lot of times.”
“I have always been drawn towards that.”
Gauthier has twice represented Canada at World Championships.
The World U-17 Hockey Challenge saw Gauthier’s team fall to the Czech Republic 2-1 in the bronze medal game. Gauthier played in all five games for Team Canada White and compiled a 2.42 goals against average and .915 save percentage.
At this past summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the U-18 Canadian team won gold. Gauthier played along side another WHL draft eligible – Nolan Maier. The experience for Gauthier was nothing short of incredible.
“Being able to represent my country for the second time now was a huge honor,” said Gauthier. “To play on home soil was something that not many people get to do.
“I take lots of pride in that. I wore that maple leaf with lots of honor and pride. And to be able to win it was an unforgettable experience. I will never forget that.”
Like every Canadian kid playing hockey at an elite level, there are dreams of the World Junior Championship.
Gauthier is no exception.
“Once you make it into the Team Canada program, you are more likely to stay in it,’ Gauthier said. “I think making U-17s and U-18s, I think that was big for me. I just gotta keep getting better everyday and working hard at practice, on ice and off ice, and keep pushing myself to get better.”
In May 2016, Gauthier was the first goaltender selected in the WHL Bantam Draft. He was chosen 10th overall, 10 spots ahead of the next goaltender, Trent Miner of the Vancouver Giants.
Gauthier looks back fondly on that fateful day.
“Yeah, that’s quite a ways down the road,” he said. “I remember sitting at my kitchen table and watching the live stream with my family and a couple of close friends.
“I kind of had an idea that I was going to get picked by the Cougars. To get picked by them was a surreal moment, I just remember getting hugged by my parents and my phone getting bombarded with text messages and phone calls and it was a day I will never forget.”
Gauthier has now played in 70 WHL games, and while his record is a tough pill to swallow, he knows that scouts still see how much he has improved in his approach to the game. He has an idea of what he needs to do to hear his name called this June in Vancouver. He’s gotten himself into a good position as NHL Central Scouting has him ranked fifth among North American goalies.
“Obviously you want to keep a short term memory, you don’t want to look too far into the future or too far into the past,” Gauthier said. “I’m just taking it day by day.
“But you know, with it getting closer. It’s starting to become a reality that is very possible that my name will be called. I’ll take it day by day and when the day comes if I get my name called, I’ll just keep working.”
Goaltending coach Taylor Dakers likes what he sees from his netminder.
“Competitiveness, he loves to battle and loves to compete,” Dakers said. “His athleticism – he is a flexible guy and can make a lot of saves guys just can’t physically do.
“His conditioning is great. We are really riding him hard now and he is handling all of that really well. He’s got a real good sense for the game he can read a lot of shots. He makes saves based on knowing where the puck is supposed to be.”
Gauthier believes he has a great attribute in his athletic ability and gives credit to Dakers, the Cougars first full-time goalie coach.
“I think my athletic ability has gotten me far in hockey, like being a very athletic goalie and being able to do the splits,” Gauthier said. “I think working with Dakers this year has really helped with my technical side of things.”
Prince George hasn’t had a full-time goaltending coach and with Dakers hired away from the Red Deer Rebels over the summer, the team has benefited.
“Obviously I didn’t think it would be a huge swing,” Gauthier said. “With him being here every day, it is amazing the things that go through the lines.
“He is always watching to see what you can do better and what you are doing well. He is a great guy and we get along well. I know that is the same for (Isaiah) DiLaura as well.
Of course, every player is aware of deficiencies in their own game and Gauthier is no different. He knows he needs to be consistent, not just for himself but for his team.
“Just my consistency,” Gauthier said. “Over the past month, month and a half, I have been doing a really good job of playing my game, game in and game out. I have to keep it going and things will work its way into place.”
Dakers agrees with Gauthier’s assessment.
“Most young goalies need to work on their consistency,” he said. “When you have an ability to stop pucks and make a lot of big saves, you have to tighten up and make sure you are making all the saves you are supposed to.
“No bad rebounds – just making your game simple across the board and then when its time to make a big save, you can do that too.”
With just over a month to play this season, the Cougars are on the outside looking in. Gauthier does not have long to impress the scouts one last time, then it’s a three-month wait to see if his name will be called at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Special thanks to Caden Fanshaw (@CadenFanshaw) for acquiring the interview of Taylor Gauthier for this profile.