Tortorella, Flyers react to Gauthier passing on Philly, addition of Drysdale

Tortorella, Flyers react to Gauthier passing on Philly, addition of Drysdale originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

John Tortorella didn’t want to talk about Cutter Gauthier.

Can you blame him? After all, the top prospect decided he did not want to play for the Flyers’ organization.

Whether the club’s head coach was surprised by that decision, Tortorella was done with it Monday night. While standing behind the bench in the first period, the Flyers traded Gauthier to the Ducks. In return, they received Jamie Drysdale and a 2025 second-round draft pick from Anaheim.

“I don’t know Cutter from a hole in a wall,” Tortorella said after the Flyers’ 4-1 loss to the Penguins at the Wells Fargo Center. “I’m not too interested in talking about him. I’d rather talk about Jamie. He’s the guy that’s coming here.”

General manager Danny Briere said the Flyers never got an explanation for why Gauthier changed his mind on Philadelphia. The 19-year-old forward was selected by the Flyers fifth overall in the 2022 draft. On the July night he was drafted, he sounded excited about joining the Flyers’ organization. He even had some local ties.

But after his freshman year at Boston College and playing for the U.S. in the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship during May, Gauthier no longer wanted to be a Flyer. Briere and the Flyers were clearly taken aback by the sudden turn of events in the summer.

“We were when it happened,” the GM said Monday night. “Now at this point, it is what it is. We started looking at, ‘How can we turn this and make the most of it?’ I have to say, I have to thank all the other teams that were involved, the teams that called us about him, to keep it kind of on the down low, to keep it secret just in case he changed his mind again.”

That never happened.

Gauthier is a big-time competitor and scorer. He’s one of college hockey’s top players as a sophomore for top-ranked Boston College.

Over the last two weeks, Gauthier shined at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship. He led Team USA to a gold medal and finished tied for the tournament lead in scoring with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) through seven games.

The Flyers sent Briere and president of hockey operations Keith Jones to Sweden to potentially meet with Gauthier at the tournament. It sounded like a last-ditch effort to sway Gauthier on the Flyers’ future.

“Nothing happened,” Briere said. “We tried to but they would not engage as far as a reason why. We just wanted to be able to present our case and tell him what we were doing here and where this organization is going. Unfortunately we never got the chance.”

After playing at the worlds last May, Gauthier didn’t attend the Flyers’ annual summer development camp for prospects. The no-show apparently bothered Flyers players.

“The only thing that I had heard was the development [camp], not wanting to be there,” Travis Sanheim said. “As a player in this locker room, that was something that stayed with us. For as long as I know, you show up to development camp whether you skate or not. If he doesn’t want to be here, we’re happy to move on and get the pieces that we did.”

Carter Hart did not know Gauthier personally.

“I’ve never met him,” the Flyers’ goaltender said. “Obviously I heard he’s a great player or great prospect. I wish him the best elsewhere. But I think we’ve got a pretty good player coming back with Drysdale. He’s a young guy, I heard he’s a great dude and obviously a really good player. I think he’s going to be a huge addition to our back end.”

Both Briere and Tortorella raved about Drysdale’s character. The 21-year-old defenseman is considered an excellent skater and facilitator. He was drafted sixth overall in 2020 and already has 123 games on his NHL résumé.

The Flyers believe he can be a future top-pair guy and power play quarterback.

“Not very often you get the chance to find a Jamie Drysdale that you can add to your lineup,” Briere said. “When that came about and his name was made available, we got really excited. The chance to add a player of his caliber to a premium position, as a right-shot defenseman for a left winger, it just made a lot of sense and we felt it was the right time to do it.

“When Jamie’s name came up, this was a pretty special player we felt. The chance to add them, they don’t come very often. Jamie’s an exciting player. There’s going to be an adjustment period we feel because of the style of play in Anaheim to our style of play, but in the long term, I think he’s going to be a fantastic player for this team.”

Tortorella had already talked to Drysdale after the Flyers’ loss.

“It’s such a good age for us, that’s what’s exciting,” Tortorella said. “A 21-year-old, a righty, skill, lateral movement. It’s such a good deal for us. In the process that we’re at right now, it’s perfect timing.”

And it was time for the Flyers to give up on Gauthier, the 2022 fifth overall pick who initially looked like such a fit for Philly.

“There was a period of time where we were disappointed that he didn’t want to play here,” Briere said. “But at some point, you’ve got to move on.”

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