Two former 1st round picks give up on their NHL dreams

Certified BUSTS!

HockeyFeed

Former Toronto Maple Leafs 1st round pick Frederik Gauthier has signed a deal with Ajoie of the Swiss National League.

The 27 year old Gauthier played this past season with the New Jersey Devils' AHL affiliate Utica Comets, putting up 32 points in 51 games. He went scoreless at the NHL level with the Devils in eight games, however. While he's been viewed as a draft bust for going on five years now, today's news that he's out of the NHL completely really cements his status. 

The big, six foot five, 240 pound winger was drafted by the Leafs in the 1st round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, going 21st overall. He was a raw talent at the time, but the Leafs' development staff believed that they could refine his offensive game and polish his defensive game in the hopes of turning him into a prototypical power forward or strong two-way depth piece. But... things never really played out that way.

His best season in the NHL came during his only full campaign when he put up just three goals and 14 points in 70 games for the Leafs in 2018-19. The Leafs gave him one more show in 2019-20 and then walked away from him in the offseason. Frankly, Gauthier never really put up stellar numbers at the AHL level either. I suspect that he'll finally hit his stride in Switzerland though, where his size might play more of a factor.

But Gauthier wasn't the only 1st round pick to give up on his NHL dreams today, as former Arizona Coyotes 1st rounder Nick Merkley announced that he has signed in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk.

The 25 year old winger was selected 30th overall by the Coyotes back in 2015 and has bounced around from the Coyotes, San Jose Sharks and New Jersey Devils but was never really able to stick at the NHL level. He played just 9 games for the Sharks last season, scoring one goal and three points. 

Merkley was always a bit of a long shot to convert his junior scoring production into the NHL, but like Gauthier, I suspect he'll pop off overseas.