Julien Gauthier said he knew he had two options when he was assigned to AHL Hartford out of training camp at the start of October.
He could either pout and work hard, the 25-year-old winger said, or work hard and try to earn the right to be the Rangers’ first recall .
“I’m not really a quitter,” Gauthier said after assisting on Zac Jones’ game-winning goal and scoring one of his own in the Rangers’ 6-3 win over the Stars on Saturday afternoon. “I know I can play in the NHL, so I took on more of a mentality of getting more reps, getting more ice time and working on my game. I didn’t really pout or anything. I wanted to get back up here as soon as possible.”
It appears the Rangers’ depth pool will be more of a factor this season, considering the slew of injuries the club has already dealt with through the first 10 games. That wasn’t the case last season, when the Rangers largely got away with hardly any recalls from the Wolf Pack due to good fortune on the injury front.
Plus, the Rangers have already made it clear they prefer to carry 22 players instead of 23 for cap space purposes ahead of the trade deadline. So when fully healthy, one can expect the team to send a player down when possible.
At the moment, however, Filip Chytil (upper body) and Vitali Kravtsov (upper body) are unavailable. Since they lost Dryden Hunt to the Avalanche, who picked up the winger on the waiver wire, the Rangers turned to Gauthier. Aside from goalie Louis Domingue and his 142 NHL games, Gauthier has the second most NHL experience on the Wolf Pack with 99 games under his belt. Jonny Brodzinski is next with 84.
“There’s no doubt he was disappointed when he went down and he wanted to get back here as soon as possible,” head coach Gerard Gallant said of Gauthier. “He went down there, didn’t say much, he worked hard and now he got his chance. Hopefully, he’s going to continue to play the same way because he’s played really well in the last two games he played and real happy to see him put the puck in the net. That’s good for his confidence.”
Gauthier, who has all the tools to be a full-time NHLer but is still working on putting it all together, has been solid for the Rangers in his first three games of the season. While the goal and assist in Dallas are his only points, Gauthier has been effective on the forecheck and has brought a physical element to the third line.
“It is really nice,” Gauthier said of contributing for the Rangers. “You know, started down in the AHL, got called up and it’s nice to produce and feel like part of the team and everything. Getting back in the lineup and everything.”
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