Rookie Midterms

Rookie Midterms: Kaiden Guhle on track to become a top-flight two-way defenceman in the NHL

The Montréal Canadiens skipped right past dynamic, top-flight forward prospects like Dawson Mercer and Hendrix Lapierre to take the 6-foot-2, physical shutdown defenceman Kaiden Guhle with the 16th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. To the chagrin of many, at the time.

For some observers, it was just the latest example of the Canadiens falling for the same trap: Valuing measurables over offensive ability. Many fans and analysts alike lamented the “low-upside” bet that Guhle seemed to represent at the time.

Perhaps fairly. In many ways, Guhle is in the mould of an old-school defenceman. His violent play style, imposing stature, and disruptive stickwork made him more punishing than productive. You had to think twice about attacking his side of the ice when he was playing in the WHL.

There was so much more to his game than just hits and checks, though.

With his speed and footwork, he could easily mirror the movements of the fastest junior forwards and explode past opponents off the rush. His high-level skating mostly served his defensive game, but it also offered him a foundation on which to build more offensive skills. 

In his last WHL season, Guhle's breakouts – already a strength in his draft year – became even more refined. He activated into the play more often and escaped more defenders in the offensive zone to generate cleaner looks offensively.

His production continued to increase, capping at a point per game in his last stretch with the Edmonton Oil Kings, and he finished his WHL career with one of the best underlying profiles that Elite Prospects Dir. of North American scouting Mitch Brown has ever accumulated in his data set.

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Rookie Midterms Montréal Canadiens NHL Kaiden Guhle
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