Cutter Gauthier signs contract with Ducks, set to make NHL debut

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Cutter Gauthier signs contract with Ducks, set to make NHL debut

A day after losing the NCAA men’s hockey championship game to the University of Denver, Boston College sophomore Cutter Gauthier on Sunday signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks.

Gauthier is expected to practice with the Ducks on Tuesday and could make his NHL debut Thursday in the Ducks’ season finale at the Vegas Golden Knights.

Gauthier led the NCAA with 38 goals — which tied a BC single-season record — and was one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. Boston University’s Macklin Celebrini, who is widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft, won that award on Friday.

The 20-year-old Gauthier moved to the top of the Ducks’ prospect pool after Anaheim acquired his rights from the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 8 in a trade for defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a 2025 second-round draft pick. Gauthier was the No. 5 pick by the Flyers in 2022 but made it known to club officials that he would not sign with them.

That decision to spurn the Flyers — the talented forward and his representatives have yet to fully detail why he had a change of heart — set off intense reaction from team executives, the Philadelphia fan base and the hockey world at large. He’ll be welcomed in Anaheim, which has anticipated his arrival. The Ducks regularly re-posted Gauthier’s achievements this season on their official X account.

Though he has played a lot at the center position, including in his time at BC, Gauthier has also lined up often at left wing and said he is comfortable at either position. The Ducks already have visions of the 6-foot-2 forward finishing plays created by rookie center Leo Carlsson and one day becoming the elite young goal scorer they’ve had trouble developing since Corey Perry. Troy Terry has had three straight 20-goal seasons and broke out with 37 in 2021-22 but isn’t the pure sniper that Gauthier is projected to be.

“He’s got elite, elite talent,” said TSN hockey analyst Craig Button, who specializes in scouting for the network. “Cutter is really able, in my view, to be able to understand how to get the best out of himself with whoever he’s playing with and to get the best out of them. Whoever he’s playing with. That speaks to his hockey sense, his understanding.

“He’s an elite, elite shooter. Like elite accuracy. We can look at the world junior tournament. It was funny. People were saying, ‘What’s wrong with Cutter Gauthier?’ There’s nothing wrong with Cutter Gauthier. He was missing by mere inches. The looks that he had, the opportunities that he had in tight. You give him those opportunities, he’s going to bury them more often than not.”

Gauthier managed to stand out while playing on a different line than BC’s trio of super freshmen, Will Smith, Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault – all three of whom are top prospects. He did play with them on the Eagles’ vaunted power play, scoring 13 times on it to tie Leonard for the team lead, but he also had 24 even-strength goals and topped BC with 10 game-winning scores.

The Ducks will expect Gauthier to make an immediate push for their 2024-25 lineup. Along with starring for the Eagles over two seasons, the Swedish-born, Arizona-raised scorer already has succeeded at the international level. Gauthier scored seven goals for the United States at last year’s world championships and then captured world juniors gold in January with six BC teammates by leading the tournament with 12 points.

Gauthier has an edge to his game and boldness in his personality. In January, after the trade, the winger said he was already eager to play his first game in Philadelphia.  After Saturday’s title game, Gauthier told reporters about the special group that they had in a season in which BC won 34 games and was the nation’s top-ranked team almost all season. “We had one hell of a team,” he said. “These are going to be my brothers for the rest of my life.”

Later he added, “S–t happens. When it’s a one-game elimination, you run into a hot goaltender and you play (against) a strong defense. It’s just tough to end it that way. It’s definitely not what we thought coming in. It is what it is and we can’t control anything about it now.”

Now, Gauthier enters the next chapter. And he’ll join a Ducks team that sits near the bottom of the NHL again with a 26-50-5 record but holds a lot of promise for the future with a bounty of young talent.

That said, the Ducks are on their sixth consecutive year with playoff hockey. Right now, they’ll celebrate bringing into the fold a pure goal-scorer they couldn’t imagine becoming available to help end that postseason drought sooner than later.

“Thirty-eight goals,” Zegras said simply. “Good goal-scorer. Excited to get him.”

(Photo of Cutter Gauthier: Brace Hemmelgarn / USA Today)