While GM Marc Bergevin wasn’t hiding the fact that he was open to trading the 16th pick, he opted to keep it as the Canadiens selected defenseman Kaiden Guhle from Prince Albert of the WHL.
DOB: January 18th, 2002
Weight: 187 lbs
CSB: 8 (North American skaters)
Hockey Prospect: 22
Future Considerations: 25
The Hockey News: 19
TSN (Button): 23
TSN (McKenzie): 14
Hockey Prospect: Guhle is a physically mature, highly-mobile, two-way defenseman. He’s a tenacious and imposing defender who can dictate on the defensive side of the puck by using his physical gifts. He’s most aggressive when looking to step-up on players crossing his own blueline, showing a tenacious defensive approach that some defenseman fail to initiate very often.
Recrutes: He’s not as agile as Drysdale, but he’s got jump for a 6-3 kid, and he’s a good skater. He’s not strong yet, but he’s going to be a powerful kid. I’m not sure I see him as a power play guy…maybe second unit. He’s going to be a penalty killer though, too. He’s got an active stick. (Scout Quote)
Draft Prospects Hockey: Throws punishing body checks and brings a genuine mean streak. He doesn’t take a shift off. A true leader. Communicates well. Poised and confident. Has some strong offensive tools as well. Has very good stick skills, high hockey IQ, and high-end vision. Makes crisp and accurate passes. Strong holding and corralling the pucks at the line. Has a heavy slap shot and a quick release wrist shot that he uses to get the puck on net. Not an overly creative guy offensively instead just taking what is available. Is a defense first guy but does possess some untapped offensive potential. Projection is a top four NHL physical two-way defender.
Future Considerations: His athleticism and range are the foundation around which his entire game is built. At his best, he can be a truly suffocating shutdown defender. He uses his agility and hip flexibility to keep shifty attackers at bay, his impeccable balance in transitions to close gaps, and his long powerful stride to escape and transition to offense.
Elite Prospects: The physical toolkit with Guhle is really as tantalizing as it gets. He’s going to bring tremendous value to the NHL level in a top-four role playing difficult shutdown minutes, and should feature prominently on his team’s penalty kill. He’ll need to improve his decision-making – that’s still a problem – and working on his puck skills couldn’t hurt, but those are minor quibbles. There’s a lot to like here.
NHL.com: Guhle’s skating allows him to excel in any kind of game, from up-tempo and attacking to grinding and physical. His game has improved each of his two full seasons in the WHL, and there’s little doubt he’ll continue that upward climb and eventually become a top-four defenseman in Montreal.
McKeen’s: There may be some limitations to what he is capable of offensively. “He is a good, not great passer and an average but not dangerous puck handler. Additionally, he does not have great agility and it can take him time to release the puck when shooting because of his big frame.” These limitations may prevent Guhle from being a powerplay quarterback and an all situations type of defender at the next level. (McKeen’s analyst quote)
Riding Pine: A physical defensive presence that also owns surprisingly strong mobility for a player his size, Guhle is a big shutdown defenseman that is able to lock down his own blue line thanks to his combination of gap control, physicality, and an active stick. Offensive upside is limited, but displays good transitional ability.
The Draft Analyst: Guhle is your atypical, modern-day WHL defenseman who mixes mobility and physicality with leadership and versatility. He may never become a big point producer but you definitely want him on the ice to hold a lead or kill a penalty.
LWOS: Guhle has the potential to be a top-pairing defenceman and play big minutes in the NHL. If he reaches his potential, he can be an elite shut down defender. His offensive game may not reach that level, but he can still move the puck and play on the second unit of a power play.
Guhle is probably about three years away from being ready to make an NHL impact. Once he exhausts his WHL eligibility, he should spend some time with Laval under Joel Bouchard to adapt to the pro game and Montreal’s system. As someone that’s steady in his own end, however, there could be a temptation to push him through the system quicker than the patience they’re likely to show with some of their other left-shot prospects.