TORONTO — Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Frederik Gauthier's summer just got a little longer, and a lot more painful.

The 22-year-old centre is facing a lengthy recovery of up to six months from a lower-body injury suffered during a Toronto Marlies' second-round playoff game Saturday night. During the second period of Game 2 against the Syracuse Crunch, Syracuse defenceman Jake Dotchin laid a hit on Gauthier along the end boards away from the play, which was moving up ice. Gauthier was down on the ice for several minutes and unable to skate off under his own power.

Dotchin was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct.

Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe said after practice on Monday that Gauthier has surgery scheduled and is looking at a long road back.

"It's a terrible loss for Freddy. He's been playing as good of hockey as I've seen," said Keefe, who's in his second season behind the Marlies' bench. "With how he's been skating and the extra speed that he's been bringing for us, it's really established him as our top centre. I think he has had a good year. It's a big blow to him because I think it would have been big for his development to keep pushing along here in the playoffs."

Gauthier had one goal and three assists in six Calder Cup playoff games, showing burgeoning chemistry with linemates Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen. The former first-round pick dressed in 21 games with the Maple Leafs this season, tallying two goals and one assist. With his oft-maligned skating making noticeable strides, it seemed Gauthier would be a logical choice to fill the Leafs fourth-line centre spot next season.

With Brian Boyle slated to become an unrestricted free agent in July, Toronto's only option under contract right now for that spot is Ben Smith. The Leafs signed Smith, who is eligible to be exposed in this summer's expansion draft, to a one-year deal last week.

"Obviously this will affect [Gauthier]'s summer, his training, and his push for next season as well, so for the Leaf organization it's a blow too," Keefe said. "Very unfortunate situation, but these situations do happen. Freddy is going to have to heal up quickly and put the work into being ready when he gets through this process."

During his post-game press conference on Saturday, Keefe said he didn't see the Dotchin hit on Gauthier, but said Monday he'd taken a look at it. Dotchin was responsible for sucker-punching Marlies defenceman Andrew Nielsen and taking Kapanen out for seven weeks in another end-boards hit during the same game back in January, and drew the ire of Maple Leafs fans in April when he appeared with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Toronto and delivered a knee-on-knee hit to Auston Matthews.

With the Marlies trailing the Crunch 2-0 in the series as it moves to Toronto, Keefe is more concerned about getting out of the hole than Dotchin.

"I do have an opinion on [the hit]," he said. "But I'm not exactly sure what the [review] process is. [General manager] Kyle Dubas takes the lead on that, but I believe the league is reviewing it and has everything they need to take a look at it. I'm going to keep my focus on getting our team to play better and getting ready for tomorrow."

The Marlies play Syracuse Tuesday and Wednesday at Ricoh Coliseum. ​