VOORHEES — If there was going to be a 10-year NHL career for Cutter Gauthier, or a 15-year career, or a two-team career, or one that would take him to the Hall of Fame, it was going to start the like he did it on Monday.
Lace up the skates.
Climb into the #39 Flyers jersey.
Skate, listen, learn, shoot and most importantly enjoy.
“Surreal”, he said.
Gauthier was the Flyers’ first-round pick in last week’s draft, the fifth player selected overall, a product of the United States’ development system recognized — or at least the drafts — for excellence in professional hockey. . Soon he will head to Boston College to begin his transition from left wing to center, but he was there Monday in the Skate Zone, joining other rookies and young Flyers players for Day 1 of a development camp. Hockey had already taken him to many places during his 18 years – from his birth in Sweden, to his upbringing in Arizona, to Michigan, where he went to play high-end bantam hockey. It also brought Gauthier to Pennsylvania, as he had often spent his summers in Wyomissing near Reading on a family farm where his mother, Kim, had roots.
It is for this reason that Gauthier has used the word more than once since his connection with the franchise that many of his relatives had long followed: Surrealist.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid,” Gauthier would say after his first formal workout while shaking the winged P. “It’s amazing how quickly it happened, 18 years working for the draft, for the future, to play in the National Hockey League. And it was gone in a few hours.
There will be more Flyers firsts for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound product of the United States National Team Development Program. His first pro game. His first goal. The first time he is scolded by John Tortorella. His first big contract. His first – should Flyers fans dare to imagine it? – Parade of 2 million fans in downtown Philadelphia.
But there was only one first-timer, and after a day off the ice on Sunday, there was Gauthier on his skates, learning from numerous Flyers coaches and scouts. Former Flyer Sami Kapanen, the club’s European development coach and scout, was seen giving advice. And that would have been Mike O’Connell, Chuck Fletcher’s senior adviser on player development, keeping tabs on all the players, but especially the ambidextrous newcomer with the big shot.
“You basically consider these guys a lump of clay,” he said. “And I hope you can help them become what they want to become.”
Gauthier, who has had only modest experience in this area in his career, wants to be an NHL center, and the Flyers believe that is a professional destiny.
Before that, it was given the go-ahead by Boston College to be used that way for a year.
“I’m sure they’ll give him the opportunity to play any position he wants,” O’Connell said. “But for me, it’s really up to the individual. If he wants to be a center ice player in the National Hockey League and if he dedicates himself to his craft, he should be able to do it.
“Obviously he has a good hockey spirit. And he will do well wherever he plays.
Development camp is not a casual skating session, but rather four days of intense practice where, in some cases, a young player can put down a deposit on a job. Gauthier is not at that stage, neither with his university commitment to respect, nor with the certainty that a Top 5 choice will not be returned without an opportunity in the NHL. But he made it clear he was in the general Philadelphia area for work, not a stroll down memory lane through Pennsylvania.
“It was a few summers when I was 9 or 10,” recalls Gauthier. “So I really didn’t quite understand what was going on at that time. But I went to my grandmother’s, aunt’s and uncle’s and spent a few weeks there with my cousins. They had karts there and all that fun stuff. So we hung out, we had fun, we visited the city. I’ve always had a good time.
“This week is quite a busy week,” he added. “So I just focus on the task at hand. But if there’s a downtime, I’d like to see them. I haven’t seen them much in recent years. »
Gauthier remembers his parents from Pennsylvania were Flyers rooters, so soon enough there will be a reason for them all to get together to watch Cutter in orange and black, playing center stage on a program that Tortorella figures are pushing in the right direction.
“They love hockey, especially watching me at such a young age,” he said. “And obviously they love watching the Flyers.”
Monday afternoon, No. 39 was a surreal workout closer to giving them a new reason to have fun.
Contact Jack McCaffery at firstname.lastname@example.org