East Meadow, NY–After spending time with three different teams, being traded twice and demoted to the minors numerous times, Julien Gauthier is hoping he’s finally found a place to stick around after joining the New York Islanders as a free agent this offseason.
“They showed the most interest in me,” Gauthier told NYI Hockey Now after his second day of training camp with the Islanders on Friday. “Honestly, I thought it was mutual. It was an easy choice. I think they’ve been really good to me so far, from the organization to the players. I’m really happy about it.”
Gauthier knows the Islanders from playing against them for the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers. Over the summer, he learned more about the organization from defenseman Samuel Bolduc while they played together in Quebec.
“As soon as I signed, we were playing together,” said Gauthier. “He’s been really nice to me since then. Everybody knows the organization is great here. He said the group of guys they have here are amazing. So far, everything he said has been true.”
“He’s a big body,” said Bolduc. “When he wants to cut to the net, I think there’s no one that’s going to stop him. He’s fast, and he’s going to fit well into the style we play.”
At six-foot-four and 227 pounds, the 25-year-old Gauthier possesses the combination of size and speed the Islanders love in their forwards, so it made plenty of sense when his singing was announced. The question now is, what will his role be once the regular season begins?
“As far as his role is concerned, that’s what training camp is for,” said Islanders head coach Lane Lambert. “We’ll see where we go when we start playing exhibition games.”
Given his style of play, one would think Gauthier fits best somewhere within the bottom six of the lineup.
The Islanders have a spot open there, at least for the time being, with Zach Parise not returning to the team to start the year. However, Gauthier has strong competition for the job.
Oliver Wahlstrom is likely the favorite to earn the role since the coaching staff is much more familiar with his game than they are with Gauthier’s at this point. But, Wahlstrom has long struggled to stay reliable and is also returning from an injury that forced him to miss 47 games last season.
Like Wahlstrom, Gauthier hasn’t found his footing in the NHL quite yet either. Now that he’s with the Islanders, he feels he’s close to doing so and isn’t going to give it up easily.
“I feel pretty good right now, especially after signing a two-year contract here,” said Gauthier. “I worked really hard this summer to make the most of this opportunity.”