It looks like fans in Toronto will have to put away their Goat Trackers for a little while. Today, the Marlies confirmed everybody’s worst fear, stating that Frederik Gauthier will be out for months after suffering a leg injury in Game 2 of their second round against the Syracuse Crunch.
“Freddy’s got a long-term injury here,” said Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe at practice on Monday. “Lower body, he’s going to be scheduled for surgery, not exactly sure when the surgery will be, but he’s looking at a lengthy recovery, likely up to six months.”
Frederik Gauthier is seriously injured after a late hit from Syracuse defenceman Jake Dotchin, who was ejected from the game. pic.twitter.com/N0mxZB1yDu
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) May 7, 2017
The injury was suffered in the second period of the game, as the result of a hit from Syracuse defenceman Jake Dotchin. Dotchin has developed a reputation of sorts with the Leafs organization, having sucker punched Andrew Nielsen, injured Kasperi Kapanen in nearly the same spot, thrown a knee-on-knee hit against Auston Matthews after being called up to the NHL, and now this incident in a span of five games against the blue and white.
In this case, Dotchin began winding up his hit after Gauthier dropped passed the puck at the top of the offensive zone faceoff circle, made contact over a second and thirty feet after release with a shove/cross-check motion, and sent Gauthier flying legs first into the boards.
The Marlies had no comment on the hit, but the American Hockey League was less than pleased, handing Dotchin a three game suspension for his actions.
This couldn’t have come at a worse time for Gauthier, who was playing some of his best hockey of the development stage of his career after coming back down from the Maple Leafs. While his point production still wasn’t up to elite levels to close the season out (3G 6A in 29GP after February 4th), he was crucial in controlling the flow of play and helping in defensively-driven situations down the stretch, and in the Albany series, broke out for four points in as many games with ten shots on goal. Keefe credited the effort Gauthier has made to improve his footwork as a key ingredient to his success of late.
“With how he’s been skating, the extra speed that he’s been bringing for us has really established him as our top centre.”
A serious leg injury would likely be a major blow to the progress he’s made, both in terms of physical capability and in terms of reaching the next step, as Keefe noted.
“I think it would’ve been big for his development to keep pushing on here in the playoffs,” said Keefe. “Obviously, this will affect his summer, his training, and his push for next season as well, so for the Leafs organization, its a blow too. ”
Brett Findlay appears to be set to take Gauthier’s place, which comes with its pros and cons. While Findlay is smaller and not as dominant defensively or at the dot, he still packs a scoring punch, potting 33 points in 29 games with the Solar Bears (ECHL) and 24 in 34 with the Marlies this year.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation, but these situations do happen. For us as a team, we’re just going to have to push on, and Freddy’s going to have to heal up quickly to be ready when he gets through this process.”