Sharks Goalie Sean Gauthier on Son Cutter’s Draft Climb, Playing With John Nabokov
Cutter Gauthier’s dad has the best save percentage of any San Jose Sharks goaltender in franchise history.
In Mar. 1999, Sharks starter Mike Vernon strained his groin. The parent club called up Sean Gauthier from AHL affiliate Kentucky to back up Steve Shields.
Gauthier, then 27, was a ninth-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 1991 Draft, bouncing between IHL, AHL, and ECHL before signing with the San Jose organization in the summer of 1998. He spent the majority of the 1998-99 season with the Thoroughblades, future Sharks greats Dan Boyle and Evgeni Nabokov (known as John then) among his teammates. The legendary Warren Strelow was his goaltending coach.
The genial Gauthier, who now provides financial advice to athletes for Montrose Capital, is the kind of talker who has a good story about anybody you ask him about.
“He was never John [to me]. He was always Evgeni,” he said of the now-Sharks goaltending coach to San Jose Hockey Now. “He got bent out of shape when you called him [Evgeni], he was like no, you guys call me John.”
Of Boyle: “He loved, loved WWF wrestling. Back then, he had a FedEx account. He’s calling his mom and dad, can you tape ‘Raw’? I gotta make sure I see it because I’m going to be on the road.”
Of Strelow, a diabetic who passed away because of complications from a 2007 stroke: “He had a different approach. Because he was so big, he didn’t put on skates. He put on Zamboni slippers, with the spikes on it.
“He was a true, genuine person. He truly cared about what you were, who you were outside of the rink.”
But I digress…
On Mar. 6, 1999, Shields and the Sharks found themselves down 4-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks at San Jose Arena. With about three minutes left in the game, head coach Darryl Sutter summoned Gauthier.
“Darryl, his bark was bigger than his bite. He’s very intimidating. He was a yeller, a screamer. But I don’t bitch or complain. I never did. I never ever spoke back to my coaches. I worked my tail off,” Gauthier mused. “I don’t know if it was like, Hey, listen, I’m gonna give you what you worked for.”
It was a memorable three minutes. Gauthier stopped two-of-two shots, one from a future Hall of Famer.
“I had, of all people, Dougie Gilmour and [Bob] Probert on a 2-on-1,” he laughed. “I baited Gilmour into take it, take it, take it, and I made the glove save.”
Gauthier never played another minute with the San Jose Sharks or in the NHL, eventually closing out his pro career in Sweden in 2005.
That leaves Gauthier’s 1.000 Save % atop all Sharks goalies since 1991, ahead of Troy Grosenick’s two-game .948.
That’s not the only colorful detail from Gauthier’s time in North America. He scored a goal in the ECHL in 1996. In 2000-01, then with the Florida Panthers, Gauthier fought the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Dan Cloutier in the pre-season.
But those are stories for another time.
Gauthier also credited Johan Hedberg with the Swedish bookend to 14-year pro career: Gauthier and Hedberg became friends in the Sharks system, and Hedberg vouched for Gauthier with the Swedish clubs when the journeyman wanted to continue his career overseas in 2001.
It was in Skellefteå where Cutter Gauthier was born on Jan. 19, 2004.
Sean Gauthier knew quickly that Cutter wasn’t following him between the pipes.
By this time, the Gauthiers had settled in Arizona, and Sean Gauthier was teaching at Ozzie Ice in Phoenix. Ozzie Ice, built by entrepreneur Dwayne Osadchuk, was where Auston Matthews played in his youth.
“I would teach goalies, and Cutter would be in the background,” Sean Gauthier said. “He always wanted to shoot on goalies. He loved doing that.”
Sean also figured out quickly that Cutter Gauthier, like Matthews, had to leave Arizona to take the next step in his hockey career.
“Cutter scored the overtime goal against Detroit [in a tournament]. And a parent came up and said, would you like to move to Detroit?” Sean Gauthier remembered, of his son’s star-in-the-making turn. “This parent had this vision that he wanted to take the top players in the country and have them play on the best team.”
Matthews entered the USNTDP as a teenager, Gauthier joined HoneyBaked Hockey in Detroit when he was 10 and would play with fellow prominent 2022 Draft hopefuls like Frank Nazar, Rutger McGroarty, and Lane Hutson.
“They taught these 12, 13, and 14-year-old kids more than I got taught in my first year of pro hockey,” Sean Gauthier marveled, of a move that was well worth it for the family.
And now, Sean Gauthier is marveling at what Cutter Gauthier has become.
“He’s 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, versatile, plays power play, penalty kill, can shoot, underrated when it comes down to the playmaking skills,” Sean Gauthier gushed. “If you ask him to be a defensive player, he’ll be a defensive player. If you ask him to be a goal scorer, he has the ability to score goals.
“He’s selfless. He’ll do whatever it takes for the team.”
That’s not just a dad talking up his son. Cutter Gauthier is considered a surefire top-10, possible top-five pick in the 2022 Draft.
So it’s unlikely that Cutter will follow his father’s path with the San Jose Sharks. But if Cutter falls to No. 11 or the Sharks trade up for him?
“I still have my San Jose Sharks hockey bag,” Sean Gauthier said with a laugh.
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