It may not be his spot to lose yet, but 26-year-old forward Julien Gauthier is making the most of his opportunities and, in the process, has taken steps to solidify his position on the third line with his first two-goal performance in Friday night's 5-1 win over the Washington Capitals at UBS Arena.
Gauthier scored twice in 18 seconds for their third and fourth goals of the season. His stats through 16 games (four goals, four assists) aren't gaudy, but that's a more than solid 30-40 point pace throughout an 82-game regular season, and he brings the added dimensions of speed and size that was missing in the bottom-six forward group.
“He’s just using his speed and his size and he's putting together a little bit of a string of goals and assists,” head coach Lane Lambert said of Gauthier after the game. “It's nothing more than that. Just go up and down and try and create opportunities that way. And he's done a good job."
Gauthier was scratched on Wednesday night in favor of Oliver Wahlstrom as the Islanders try to get things going for the 2018 1st round pick, who has struggled in his return from last year's season-ending knee surgery. If Wahlstrom were to receive more playing time, it would most likely come at Gauthier's expense, but games like Friday make it harder for that to happen.
Gauthier is also a former first-round pick with tantalizing skills, having been drafted 21st overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2016 NHL Draft. The Islanders are already his fourth NHL team (CAR, OTTA, NYR), as other teams have seen the raw skillset he has to offer a lineup. After signing a two-year contract during the off-season, Long Island may be the fortunate location where he starts putting it together and turns into an NHL regular after years of potential that was not fully realized.