2020 NHL Draft Preview: Gauthier looking for a second chance

The 2020 NHL Draft takes place tonight and tomorrow and for the first time ever the annual event is being held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Round 1 begins at 4:00 pm PT today, with rounds 2-7 continuing tomorrow at 8:30 am PT.

Cougars’ goaltender Taylor Gauthier may see his name called on day two. Gauthier, 19, is in his second year of draft eligibility and is ranked 19th among North American Goaltenders in NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings. The Cougars haven’t had a goalie drafted to the NHL since 2004 when Justin Pogge went to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round. Ironically, Pogge is someone Gauthier looked up to in Calgary, when Pogge was playing for the Hitmen.

Even though he’s coming off his best season to date, Gauthier isn’t putting too much stock into this year’s draft. After being passed over a year ago, he says he’s taking it in stride.

“Last year, I had the mindset I was going to get drafted. I went to the draft (in Vancouver) and I had a draft party planned out and then I didn’t get drafted. That was tough to get over. This time around I’ll be happy to have my name called but if it doesn’t happen this isn’t the end for me. I will still go out there and prove the doubters wrong.”

So, what has changed for him in the last year?

“Maturity honestly. I really worked on the mental side of things and I think I’ve come a long way in the last year. I really wanted to carry myself like a pro, on and off the ice. I wanted to be a leader not only in games but in practice too. When I was younger, I was more emotional and had a tough time getting over a bad goal or a tough game and my practice habits weren’t great. I think that came with putting too much pressure on myself and just being young. I’ve learned that having the right attitude, having fun can do wonders to your game.”

It certainly did, as the Calgary, AB product is coming off his best season to date in the WHL. In the 2019-20 regular season, Gauthier was first in the WHL in minutes played (2870), tied for first in games played (50), second in shots against (1677) and saves (1537), and all while posting a career bests in wins (16), goals-against average (2.93), and save percentage (.917).

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has extended the WHL off-season, but Gauthier says the extra time has allowed him to recommit himself to his fitness. He admits the heavy workload over the past two seasons took a toll near the end of each season. He says the extra time off gave him an opportunity to get stronger.

“Playing as much as I did in the last two seasons was taxing on my body; I certainly felt it towards the end of the season. I wanted to get stronger this summer and I really worked at it. I cut down my weight and then added on about 20 pounds of muscle. I don’t know what the schedule is going to look like this year, but I feel great and I’m ready for a whatever they throw at me.”

The Cougars’ puck-stopper plans on watching the first round of the NHL Draft from his home in Calgary but what about the second day? Gauthier says he’ll be working but plans to follow along in some shape or form, “I’ll probably listen to the radio. I’m working for a family friend right now and I’ll be outside on a job site, so I won’t be around a TV. If I get drafted it will be a special moment obviously and I’ll probably get to go home early too.”

The 2020 NHL Draft can be seen on Sportsnet (Canada).

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