When you’re a giant of a man – standing 6’4’’ and tipping the scales at 212 pounds – it’s hard to hide from anyone, even less so while skating around on a
hockey rink and scoring goals at an average of almost one per game.
And while most Canadians are glued to their TVs to watch the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship during the holidays, most NHL scouts have their eyes set
on one particular player wearing the maple leaf: forward Julien Gauthier.
The reason is pretty simple: the 18-year-old is the only undrafted player on the Team Canada roster, thanks to an Oct. 15, 1997 birthday that fell one
month after the cut-off for the 2015 draft.
Add in the fact he leads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 29 goals in 30 games, and it’s obvious why he’s the focus of so much attention.
Despite his undrafted status and his goal-scoring prowess (he’s scored more goals than any other Canadian skater competing in Helsinki), Gauthier is the
first to admit he doesn’t feel any additional pressure.
“I know the scouts are here to see me play, but I’ll just play my game,” the Pointe-aux-Trembles, Que., native says. “I’ll keep the same routine, it’s what
I’ve been doing for some time and it’s worked out good for me.”
But while the preparation for each game doesn’t change for Gauthier, he knows just how important a strong showing at the world juniors can go towards
improving his draft status come next June in Buffalo, N.Y.
“It’s definitely the biggest tournament of my life and the best competition I’ve ever played against, so it can only be positive for me,” he says about his
dream opportunity of representing Canada on the biggest stage of junior hockey.
And while he’s played on big stages before – winning bronze with Laval-Montréal at the 2013 TELUS Cup, Canada’s National Midget Championship; representing
Quebec at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge; and helping the Val-d’Or Foreurs reach the semifinal at the 2014 Memorial Cup – Gauthier is looking
within the Team Canada dressing room for his biggest inspiration.
One year ago, Connor McDavid and Lawson Crouse represented Canada in their draft years, winning world juniors gold before being selected first and 11th
overall, respectively, at the NHL Entry Draft, and Crouse is back as one of Canada’s four returnees this year. In 2014, it was Aaron Ekblad and Sam
Reinhart, the top two picks in that year’s NHL draft.
In fact, every Team Canada since the start of the Program of Excellence in 1982 has included at least one draft-eligible player, so Gauthier has plenty of
past performances to draw on for inspiration.
“They’re all good examples to follow,” he says. “They’re guys with experience and good hockey players, so following in their footsteps is good for me.”
So while he’s got veteran teammates to learn from during the IIHF World Junior Championship, Gauthier also has his fair share of role models to lean on
He is the son of Martin Gauthier, who won the Mr. Canada body-building contest in 1984, and the grandson of Denis Gauthier, who was not only Mr. Canada
himself in 1964, but also runner-up in the Mr. Universe competition.
To top it all off, Gauthier is the nephew of former NHLer Denis Gauthier, a veteran of 554 NHL games who also happened to win world juniors gold with
Canada, in 1996.
Gauthier and his family share a common passion for sports and hockey, but there is another common thread that unites them all; they are all workout and
“Training has always been part of my life,” says Gauthier, who has been working out since the age of nine. “My father never forced me to do it, but he told
me when I was younger that if I wanted to play hockey, it would be good for me to work out. I’ve never stopped since that day.”
And while he laughs at the idea of being a body-builder himself, Gauthier knows just how important fitness and a good work ethic can be, and acknowledges
that his edge over his opponents comes from the fact he’s in great shape.
While he can only hope that NHL scouts will see just how much work he’s put into his career when the NHL draft comes around next summer, Gauthier has his
sights set on something much more important for now: bringing a world juniors gold medal home to Canada.