On the weekend of June 21 in Vancouver, a Prince George Cougar could have his name called to the big leagues at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Goaltender Taylor Gauthier spoke with PrinceGeorgeMatters today (June 4) about his time at the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo, New York last week, sharing some insights on how the prospect showcase helped him gain experience and expose himself to top-level training.
“It was a really big honour for me,” said the 18-year-old. “There was a lot of big calibre players there. Obviously, it’s something that not a lot of people get to do and I was just very grateful to go there and experience everything that I did.”
The Calgary product also had a physical testing highlight with the best squat jump of any other player that attended the Combine, reaching as high as 23.19 inches (almost two feet), roughly four-and-a-half inches higher than second place.
“That was my favourite part actually,” he said. “I did really well in it, obviously, so I can’t complain about that. Just a cool experience and getting the chance to put yourself against some of the other top prospects in the game is something you don’t get to do very often.”
Another perk about the annual showcase is getting the chance to speak with NHL representatives, scouts, and even some General Managers.
While he couldn’t disclose details about the interviews, Gauthier said he had scheduled interviews with four different NHL clubs and the experience was beyond thrilling as a potential draft pick.
“You’re pretty much free game the whole week,” he explained. “At any time, an NHL Scout could come up to you, ask you questions, and even have a normal conversation with you. It’s pretty cool, and you know, to be able to sit there and see guys like Ken Holland [Edmonton Oilers] and Steve Yzerman [Detroit Red Wings] sit down at the table five feet away from you was pretty surreal. You realize then that you’re at the level where that’s just going to become normal soon.”
Gauthier will enter the NHL Draft this month as the seventh-ranked North American goaltender.
Despite a dismal season by the Prince George Cougars, he was able to start in 55 of the 68 games this year, finishing with a 0.899 save-percentage (SV%) and upping his status with NHL Central Scouting.
He believes getting the chance to earn the bulk of the starts between the pipes has helped him stay on the scouting radar, in addition to receiving invites for the NHL Prospects Game, Hockey Canada’s World Under-18 team, and Canada’s Program of Excellence Camp for goaltenders starting tomorrow (June 5).
“I’ve dealt with lots of adversity over the last two years. You know, in Prince George, we weren’t really the best in the [Western Hockey] League, but I think I have a good head on my shoulders and I’m pretty mentally tough. So I think I’m able to handle adversity maybe a little bit better than the other guys at the camp. I’ll let that take care of itself though and enjoy my time there.”
“I take lots of pride in representing the Prince George Cougars and myself, and I think I did a pretty good job over there [in Buffalo],” Gauthier said about completing the Combine’s fitness round, while also hoping his maturity level, ethics, and overall personality helped his case in the one-on-one interviews.
“I honestly just hope, whenever I met with them, that they thought I was a good person,” he said. “At this level, there are so many things that everyone does really well, and I think, at the end of the day, those interviews are looking for good human beings before good hockey players because they have the tools and skills to pick out the talent, but they also want to get to know you better and see what kind of person you are off the ice.”
Based on his current ranking, Gauthier is predicted to be picked as early as the second or third round of the NHL Draft depending on interest.
He’s set to have a busy off-season, training and prepping for the 2019-20 WHL season, looking to make a statement in his third year with the Prince George Cougars.