Gauthier Making Most of Opportunity With Crunch

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Danick Gauthier's expected stay with the Syracuse Crunch was one game.

Sent down to the ECHL Florida Everblades at the beginning of the season to find his confidence and improve his work ethic, the 6-2 forward was brought back earlier this month to temporarily fill a space in the lineup.

"He showed up and he played well," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "We thought we'd give him another chance and he continues to play well."

Gauthier has made the most of his latest opportunity. The 22-year-old registered three points in his first four games with Syracuse, and has earned a shot on the Crunch's top line alongside Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov.

"He's playing a lot more confidently; hanging on to the puck, making plays in the O-zone that he wasn't making before, protecting pucks like he wasn't doing before," Zettler said at practice Tuesday. "He's just got a confident air about him, and its shown up."

"They're good players, so that helps me a lot," Gauthier said. "I'm going to play whatever role they give me."

Gauthier's second trip to the ECHL in as many years helped serve as a wake-up call. The Quebec-native spent six games with the Everblades and tallied six points.

"He wasn't getting the job done through training camp, he wasn't doing what he needed to do, and initially, he wasn't going to play," Zettler said. "We thought it would be best for him to go down and play a lot and be depended on. He went down there and worked hard and he's being rewarded for it now."

Last season, Gauthier split time between Syracuse and Florida. He had 10 points in 38 games with the Crunch, and six points in five games with the Everblades.

Gauthier went undrafted and earned a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning when he recorded 182 points in 278 games with the Saint John Sea Dogs over four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Gauthier and the Sea Dogs won the league title twice and the Memorial Cup once in that span.

"He can skate, he's got size and he's got good hands," Zettler said. "He's got the talent to play at this level, without a doubt. It was just him setting his mind the right way."

In order to stay in the Crunch lineup, Gauthier needs to consistently bring a professional, workmanlike approach, whether it's in a game or at practice.

"Now it's up to him to continue with it," Zettler said. "There's a lot of good players that want to be in the lineup. He can be one of them if he does it every day."

Even four games into his stay, Gauthier is treating every game like it might be his last chance.

"I'm trying to do the simple stuff and work the hardest I can," Gauthier said. "Treat every shift like its my last one."

Pictured: Crunch coach Rob Zettler, left, talks with forward Danick Gauthier during practice last week.