Taylor Gauthier joined a suddenly-crowded Penguins goaltending prospect pool when Pittsburgh picked him up during 2022 free agency.
#16: Taylor Gauthier - G
Age: 21 (February 15, 2001)
Height/Weight: 6’2”/ 207 lbs.
Acquired Via: Signed to three-year ELC as an undrafted free agent on March 1
Gauthier has spent the past five years in the WHL. After four and a half seasons with the Prince George Cougars and a role as starting goaltender for Team Canada at the U-18 World Junior Championships, he was traded to the Portland Winterhawks in December 2021.
With 2021-22 being his last year of eligibility in junior hockey, this was potentially Gauthier’s last chance to make an impression on potential NHL suitors— and it didn’t take long for him to do so with the Winterhawks.
After the December 27 trade, Gauthier promptly went 7-0-0 and was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month in January after holding opponents to just 1.70 GAA.
Gauthier went on to set a franchise record later that month by holding off opposing shooters for 232 minutes and 19 seconds of consecutive shutouts.
After going 24-4-0 with Portland during the regular season, Gauthier backstopped the Winterhawks through the playoffs. He began the postseason by eliminating his former teammates, limiting the Cougars to just four goals during a four-game sweep.
Penguins goaltending prospect Taylor Gauthier with a big save for Portland in Game 2 of the second round of the WHL playoffs tonight. pic.twitter.com/QniFyFgDhL— Taylor Haase (@TaylorHaasePGH) May 9, 2022
But it was the Penguins who snagged Gauthier in free agency this March, adding him to a pool of goaltending prospects which includes Filip Lindberg and Joel Blomqvist (ranked No. 8 and No. 11 on Pensburgh’s 2021 Top 25 Under 25 list, respectively.)
Unlike either Lindberg or Blomqvist, Gauthier, who will officially turn pro this season after using up his last year of junior eligibility, is a right-handed goaltender. Seth Rorabaugh reports Gauthier’s inspirations are right-handed goaltenders Jose Theodore and Logan Thompson.
As a right-catching goaltender, Gauthier is a “silly sider,” but there’s nothing silly about his NHL credentials. As a fairly large body, he doesn’t allow much for shooters to aim at. His athleticism can make him a little bit scrambly at times, but the Penguins’ goaltending development coaches — a department that has been rebuilt under general manager Ron Hextall — can smooth out those rough edges.
Other scouting reports echo this assessment. From a scout speaking to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News in 2020:
He’s really athletic and when he gets outside his structure, he gets all over the place. He gets a little scrambly. Let’s be clear, I’m not saying he’s Dominik Hasek, but it’s that kind of style, which can be a little scary. And when Dominik Hasek was being rated early on, no one thought he’d be Hasek.
Now, this large, athletic silly-sider will be battling Lindberg (Blomqvist is developing in Finland, and recent signing Dustin Tokarski will likely serve as the Penguins’ third-stringer) for the starting spot with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
“Confidence would be No. 1. I think he has a great skillset, a great gameplan, and he’s a great human being, as well. … Over five years, he’s played a lot of games and had a great track record the whole way.” —Penguins goaltender development coach Kain Tisi, via Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
One look at Gauthier’s 2021-22 highlight reel will show you why the Penguins are interested in developing this confidence further.
Gauthier is a talented goaltender who puts up an intimidating presence in the net. The only question is how he will be able to apply— and discipline— these skills at the AHL level.
Luckily, with his three-year contract starting in 2022-23, the organization has time left to see what 21-year-old Gauthier can become.