Kraken general manager Ron Francis recently reflected on situations during the team’s first season where Seattle couldn’t get a needed goal despite being firmly on the right side of the shot clock.

The Kraken have the No. 4 pick in the 2022 NHL entry draft, and forward Cutter Gauthier could potentially provide that finishing touch.

Gauthier was second on the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) with 34 goals and fifth with 65 points through 54 games. He’s described as a crafty, versatile power forward with a quick and effective wrist shot considered one of the best available this year.

Six-foot-3, 201-pound Gauthier, bound for Boston College next season, played center and left wing with the NTDP. He recently told The Hockey News he’s expected to be the No. 1 center for the Eagles, who saw their top four scorers turn pro this offseason.

Shane Wright speaks during a news conference after being selected as the fourth overall pick by the Seattle Kraken during the first round of the NHL hockey draft in Montreal on Thursday, July 7, 2022. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP) GMH123

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His ability to play the prized center position has drawn attention, and he’s logged good minutes there, but it remains to be seen where Gauthier is more likely to thrive. Or perhaps it truly makes no difference to the 18-year-old, who moved from left wing to center this season without issue.

Speaking generally, Kraken amateur scouting director Robert Kron said it’s much rarer to find wingers who can make a successful transition to center at the NHL level.

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“What you’ll see more is that players will play center and then end up playing wing in the NHL,” Kron said. “Center is a difficult position to play. And there’s value in centers because people build their teams through the middle.”

Kron was a scout with Carolina in 2013 when the Hurricanes used a fifth overall pick on Swedish centerman Elias Lindholm, who initially was used often at right wing while posting modest NHL stats his first five seasons.

Then, after a 2018 trade to Calgary, the Flames immediately made Lindholm their top-line right wing, where his career took off with 27 goals and a career-high 78 points. He remained on wing the following season before the Flames converted him back to a full-time center role in 2020-21 and then made him their top-line center last season.

Lindholm responded with 42 goals. He notched a career-best 82 points.

Kron said Lindholm being a natural center made the conversion back to that position easier.

“Usually, players who are natural centers find it easier to go back and forth. They can play center, play on the wing. It’s more difficult for players to convert to center.”

TSN insider Bob McKenzie listed Gauthier at No. 5, noting his “goal-scorer’s nose for the net” and predicting he could be a top-six, two-way power forward. Gauthier is third in Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.

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“He’s been very consistent all year as a point producer and his game has really evolved into where he can play in all situations,” NHL Central Scouting senior manager David Gregory told NHL.com. “So he can kill a penalty for you because he’s got good reach, good positional play without the puck.”

Gauthier won’t be the first in his immediate family to have his name called at the draft. Father Sean, a goaltender, was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in 1991 and appeared in one game for the San Jose Sharks. Sean was playing in the Swedish Elite League when Cutter was born in Skelleftea and got his name from a Swedish cookbook. The family later relocated to Arizona.

Cutter has represented the U.S. in international competition. He had 3 goals and 6 assists in six games for the U.S. at this year’s U18 Worlds, helping Team USA to a silver medal.

Juraj Slafkovsky and Shane Wright (Ontario Hockey League) are the consensus top available prospects, and the order they go Thursday might be known only to host Montreal. The Canadiens won the draft lottery and own the top pick.

Another U.S. National Team Development Program center, Logan Cooley, is likely to go high as well. Cooley is committed to the University of Minnesota and his own trajectory affected Gauthier’s. Cooley traveled to Canada for an abbreviated tournament with Team USA’s world junior squad, creating an opening at center for left winger Gauthier.

The Kraken are looking to bolster their defensive depth this summer and offensively inclined Slovak blueliner Simon Nemec or big, bruising Czech player David Jiricek — both potentially available at No. 4 — fit the bill. But Gauthier also checks several boxes, and the “C” for center in “C/LW” has to add to his appeal.

Reporter Geoff Baker contributed to this story.