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World Juniors 2024

Cutter Gauthier wants to be leaned on as "that versatile player" for USA at 2024 World Juniors

PLYMOUTH, Michigan – Team USA looks like the tournament favourite at the 2024 World Junior Hockey Championships on paper. One of the main reasons for that is their considerable centre depth.

Philadelphia Flyers fifth-overall pick Cutter Gauthier leads the way as an elder statesman, 19-years-old with one year's experience after capturing bronze in Halifax in 2023.

He's done an excellent job of playing the position since making the full-time switch at Boston College last year with 60 points in 49 college games and running at 48 percent in the faceoff dot. That may be enough to make him their go-to centre in critical draws.

“The centre depth is good. It is good at all positions,” said USA coach, David Carle. “We certainly want guys who can win faceoffs and be great in the middle of the rink. Starting with their puck support. The more we can get that to them. Cleaner exits, cleaner entries. A lot of the play can go through many of those guys. It will be a big part of our success.”

This team is emphasizing puck possession and the best way to do that is with pivots who can skate well and lead prolonged offensive attacks.

“We had some refreshers from the summertime. Spending time in our own end and bringing the puck out,” said USA coach, David Carle. “We don’t want to defend long. We want to have the puck.”

During USA camp, Gauthier was taking most of the draws, alongside his old USNTDP U18 teammates Rutger McGroarty and Jimmy Snuggerud on a line together.

“It was nice to play with him (Gauthier) out there. I played with him at the NTDP too. We are building the chemistry back,” Snuggerud stated. “I haven’t played with him in a little while. It’s good to be back with him. Making plays with him. It is a lot of fun.”

World Junior Selection Camp was intense, with several drills, and Gauthier when the focus shifted to offence but struggled a little more with his wall game. That is a part of his game that is still developing.  

“It’s been good. Getting used to these guys again. It’s been great. It was high-intensity today,” Gauthier said with a smile. “I’m playing against some of the top players in the country. And there will be a few cuts so nobody wants to leave anything out there. It's been high-compete. I felt it for sure. It was fun.”

I can tell that Gauthier wants to play centre but if you ask him about it, he gives the team a more accommodating answer. And that’s another redeeming trait.

“Whatever the coach wants. I want to be that versatile player. Playing left wing, playing centre. Today I was playing centre out there. I’ve been used to it this season with Boston College,” Gauthier reiterated. “It’s been working out. I don’t really have a preference. Whatever the coach wants to do.”

With all the talk about the BC line, Gauthier’s could be the most effective line overall. They have speed, size, and scoring ability.

“McGroarty and I are roommates at every single tournament we play at. We are close friends off the ice. It’s been four months since I’ve seen him,” Gauthier added.  

Gauthier is an important leader on this team and the fact that this camp got the juices flowing again with his linemates is more important than what happened during drills.  

“Last year I was the lone wolf. This year we have seven or eight guys from BC. It’s been great...It's been nice having a few familiar faces outside the program,” Gauthier said.  

Gauthier worked hard over the summer. A lot of it centres around scoring goals and he will be looked at as the main shot on the power play.

“I think the biggest thing for me has been intensity. Just bringing it every single shift. Shift in and shift out. Bringing it every night. And touching up on goalscoring. I’m always learning how to beat goalies,” Gauthier admitted. “I look at Auston Matthews and guys like that who seem to do it pretty easily. Just anything I can do. Like consistency. I’m always trying to score goals and apply it to my game.”

The World Junior camp practices were held on an Olympic sheet to mimic the playing surface in Gothenburg, Sweden. The size of the ice was one thing, but the battle and the hits that were taking place made for as intense a camp as I’ve ever seen.

“I have a lot more room to make plays. A little more time compared to the USA rinks compared to international. I think it’s an extra 12 feet on each side,” Gauthier noted. “You get a lot of room to make plays on the power play and 5-on-5. It’s nice but you cannot let that ice affect you at all.”

Expect Gauthier to be on the ice in important situations. He is fast, he can carry the puck and control the puck and those are the exact marching orders from his coach. He will be the catalyst on his line. Since playing centre, his passing has improved. When he shoots, he will have Snuggerud around the net setting screens and looking to take out the garbage.

Gauthier had four goals and 10 points last year. If he gets another ten in this year’s tournament, that will give him the all-time record with 20. That would put him one point ahead of Doug Weight who has the record set in 1991.

Gauthier has the can-do, positive attitude that you want in a team leader. He may not be in the pole position for the captaincy, but he'll almost certainly don a letter. He has a 1.43 points per game average in World Junior competition. He understands this format. He has a lot of experience and points-wise has excelled.

Gauthier looks ready for this tournament. Honestly, he has been getting ready for this since last summer. We all know how important international play is and he has been waiting for his chance to avenge last year's third-place showing. He wants gold.

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World Juniors 2024 USA U20 WJC-20 Cutter Gauthier David Carle
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