The New Jersey Devils have added numerous defensemen in recent years through the draft and trades as they look to re-stock the prospect pool. While this year’s draft, especially at the top, leans more towards forwards, there are some interesting defenders that should be available to them. One of these defenders is Kaiden Guhle, one of the top CHL defenders among this draft class, who features a two-way game that leans more towards the defensive side. This profile will take a look at different areas of his game, what his potential could be, and where he may hear his name called in the draft. Let’s get to know more about Kaiden Guhle.
Who is Kaiden Guhle?
According to his WHL page, Kaiden Guhle is a left handed defenseman from Sherwood Park, Alberta that was born on January 18, 2002. He is listed at 6’3”, 184 lbs. so he already has a decent frame to grow into. His brother, Brendan Guhle, is a 22 years old defenseman in the Anaheim Ducks organization that is listed at 6’2”, 197 lbs. Brendan was a 2nd round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 Draft and has spent the last 3 seasons bouncing between the NHL (59 games) and AHL (139 games). Kaiden seems to be a higher regarded prospect in his draft year than his brother was in his. Let’s take a look at Kaiden’s previous seasons thanks to his Elite Prospects profile.
Guhle spent the 2015-16 season playing Major Bantam hockey in Alberta with the Sherwood Park Flyers Bantam AAA team. He put up a respectable 3 goals and 21 assists in 35 regular season games. In 2016-17 he moved on to play in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League system for OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep where he served as captain. He led the team with 17 goals and 23 assists in 30 games and was named CSSBHL Top Defenseman. He even made 4 appearances for the varsity team. This strong season would see Guhle picked #1 overall by the Prince Albert Raiders in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
In 2017-18 he would be a standout player for the OHA Edmonton Prep varsity team with 14 goals and 25 assists in 35 regular season games. He was named CSSHL Freshman of the Year and CSSHL Top Defenseman. He also served as an alternate captain for Team Alberta in the WHL Cup. His 5 goals and 4 assists helped the team to a Silver Medal. Guhle also made his WHL debut for Prince Albert with 8 games across December and January of that season.
The 2018-19 season was his first full season for Prince Albert. He put up 3 goals and 14 assists in 65 regular season games and 3 assists in 23 playoff games as they captured the WHL Championship. Guhle did not record any points in 3 games at the Memorial Cup but I’m sure that had to have been a great experience for his development. According to Pick 224, Guhle had the 6th highest primary points per game among the defenseman that were a season out from their draft year. He also captained Canada Red at the U17 World Hockey Championship where he had 3 assists in 6 games.
This past season he had a larger role for Prince Albert and put up 11 goals and 29 assists in 64 games. That led the defensemen in scoring on Prince Albert. According to Pick 224, Guhle had the 3rd highest primary points per game rate among the defensemen in their draft year. In terms of international play, he was an alternate captain for Canada’s U18 entry at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he had an assist in 5 games as they won a Silver Medal. Now let’s see where Guhle is ranked.
Where is Kaiden Guhle Ranked?
#8 North American Skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
#28 - Future Considerations (March Ranking)
#14 - ISS Hockey (March Ranking)
#18 - McKeen’s Hockey (Midseason Ranking via EliteProspects)
#20 - Elite Prospects (April Ranking)
#26 - The Draft Analyst (March Ranking)
#12 - TSN - Bob McKenzie (Midseason Ranking)
#24 - TSN - Craig Button (March Ranking)
#15 - Sportsnet - Sam Cosentino (April Ranking)
#22 - Dobber Prospects - Cam Robinson (April Ranking)
Colin Cudmore’s (@CudmoreColin) “Expected Pick Range” tool which takes rankings from 34 sources has Guhle listed to go anywhere from 19th to 77th based on the latest April rankings. On his Google Sheet which has a compilation of the rankings, Guhle is listed at #31 out of all the prospects that have been ranked by at least 50% of the sources. It seems that Guhle is a prospect that while highly regarded, has divided some in the scouting community about whether he is a 1st or 2nd round talent.
What Others Say About Kaiden Guhle
Our first report comes from Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst who has this in-depth profile on Guhle. Below are some points of interest about the “minute-eating, two-way defenseman” who played in all situations for Prince Albert this past season. First, here is some of what Kournianos had to say about Guhle’s skating:
He’s definitely more successful creating time and space by moving east to west rather than north to south, but Guhle has excellent multi-directional mobility with or without the puck. Guhle’s pivoting from backwards to forward appears effortless and he rarely is caught flat footed when challenged by a roadrunner attacking him at top speed.
Skating has always been of paramount importance for a defenseman, but even more so in today’s pro game. It’s encouraging to read that it’s a noteworthy aspect of his game. I like that while he is at his best going east to west, he is able to utilize this aspect of his game in all directions. Now onto his offensive game:
Offensively, Guhle generates most of his opportunities and set-ups via his hard, accurate shot. Guhle can generate a significant amount of power behind his shot without much backswing and his release for a defensemen is very quick... His passing, on the other hand, is very meat and potatoes, although he goes tape to tape from his forehand or backhand, especially when going D-to-D.
Getting pucks on net for his own goals or to create chances for his teammates seems to be a plus aspect of Guhle’s game. His passing game may be simple but he seems to have a solid fundamental base that works. Now on to his defensive game:
His one-on-one play — gap control, footspeed, stick positioning, timing — is excellent, and he can finish off an opponent with a thunderous check that creates a change in possession. Other times, Guhle will fix them into the corner and contain them while using harassing stick checks until forward help arrives. The decision making process behind Guhle’s slot coverage delivers sound courses of action that result in the elimination of threats near his own goal.
This is a glowing review and it’s easy to see why many in the scouting community view Guhle has having 1st round talent. Gap control is one of the most important skills for a defenseman to have while being one of the toughest skills to master. While it will get harder for Guhle as he progresses from junior hockey to pro hockey, I’m encouraged to read that he has already shown that he’s ahead of his peer group in this category. His footspeed and stick positioning make him a threat to shut down attacks in all situations. His excellent timing suggests that his hockey IQ is also strong. While he has been described as a two-way defender, it seems that his defensive game is ahead of his offensive game, which is more than fine considering his main goal is to shut down the opposition.
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey has this informative profile of Guhle. He also breaks Guhle’s game down by skating, offense, and defense. On his “excellent” skating, Kerr wrote:
He also has very smooth pivots, allowing him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Guhle shows good agility and edgework as well. He is already strong on his skates and has good balance.
When describing Guhle’s offensive game, Kerr agreed with The Draft Analyst that Guhle does “a good job of keeping his shot low and on the net” and that “he could be a bit more creative to maximize his potential.” He also had this to add:
Guhle is a strong stick handler. He can go back in his own zone, retrieve pucks, avoid forecheckers and move it up the ice. He can make a good first pass to start the rush. Guhle can also lead the rush through the neutral zone and has the passing skills to create chances. He can also play the point on the power play.
In regards to his defensive game, Kerr also backed up what The Draft Analyst reported, citing that Guhle’s “strong skating leads to excellent gap control.” He also added:
If attackers come down his side of the ice with their heads down, Guhle can throw a big hit but he is disciplined and does not get himself out of position looking to make that hit. He also plays physical along the boards and in front of the net. Guhle is a smart positional player who cuts down passing lanes with his long stick and is willing to block shots. He anticipates well and creates turnovers which leads to a quick transition.
Overall, this is another report that leaves a positive impression about Guhle’s game. He is a two-way defenseman who plays a relatively simple game offensively with his ability to get pucks on net but the bulk of his value seems to be in his fundamental, effective defensive game. Kerr notes that a comparable for Guhle could be Colton Parayko in terms of playing style. Kerr also notes that Guhle’s NHL potential could be as high as a top pairing defender with 2nd PP unit duties should all go to plan.
Tony Ferrari of Dobber Prospects made this observation about Guhle’s game in January on their player page of Guhle. Here is some of what he had to say:
The defensive end of the ice is where Guhle excels best. He uses his size well, engaging physically and imposing his will at times at the junior level. He struggles at times against bigger players because he needs to develop strength but the foundation for a high-end defensive game is there. Offensively, Guhle plays a stable, sturdy game. He can make a good pass to exit the defensive zone and start transitional play. Once into the offensive zone, Guhle plays a safe game. His biggest weapon is a big shot from the point. He has a bomb that he unleashes without hesitation and when he hits the net, it can be difficult for goalies to make the save if the net-front has any sort of traffic.
This report also falls in line with what others have said about Guhle. His defensive game is already at an above average spot at this point of his development and it should get better as he adds more muscle to his frame. His offensive game is simple and he could realize more potential if he gets more creative, but at the end of the day, his main contributions are in his own end.
Here is some of what Bill Plazcek of Draftsite had to say about Guhle’s game:
His high end skating skills will get him selected early, because he skates well in four directions and it takes him no more than three steps to get to top barreling speed. He surprises with high end bursts from the boards past defenders in the open seam before they realize he has done it. His feet are deceptive, and his body lean gives the impression he is walking the blue line one way and then he pinches. Defensively, he closes gaps and angles attackers to the outside or the boards. An excellent passer and that, along with speed, aids his escaping pressure.
At this point I think it’s safe to say that the scouting community is high on Guhle’s skating, gap control, and ability to control the puck. Finally, let’s see what Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet had to say in his latest ranking where he has Guhle as a mid-1st round prospect:
There’s big value in this complementary defenceman. Combination of size, amazing skating ability and nastiness are attractive.
A Little Video
Our first video comes from the The Draft Analyst’s YouTube channel, Prospect Film Room:
Around the :08 mark of this video you can see Guhle join the rush as the 3rd man in the offensive zone where he gathers the puck in space and delivers a quick shot past the goaltender. The next sequence starting at 0:27 sees Guhle gather the puck at the point on the PP, move it to the right point, receive it back in the center, and deliver a wrist shot past the goaltender. Nothing flashy but textbook in how he executed the PP. You can see Guhle do well in a couple of breakouts at the 0:40 and 1:02 marks. In the first one he makes a simple pass to a cutting forward at center ice that ends up unbalancing the defense on the zone entry which leads to a goal. The second one sees Guhle act like he’s carrying the puck out of his own zone but drop pass it at his blue line which starts a great passing sequence that leads to a quick zone entry and goal by his team. There’s more PP action at 1:32 where Guhle eventually finishes off the play with an excellent one timer. At 2:11 Guhle executes a low wrist shot which leads to his teammate scoring a goal. While his offensive game may lack flash, you can see a bit of his potential at the 3:25 mark when he fakes out his man at the point and moves in for a goal down low.
The next video is a scouting report video from Draft Dynasty on YouTube.
The video opens up talking about how Guhle compares to previous WHL draft eligible defensemen in points per game in their draft year over the past 20 seasons, noting that while he isn’t high on the list, he was still around the likes of Jared Spurgeon and Damon Severson. At 1:44 the host starts to break down Guhle’s game, specifically his physicality and intangibles in this part. He also notes that Guhle was a part of a defense that was among the best in the CHL in preventing not only goals and shots. He also notes that Prince Albert played low event hockey and perhaps Guhle’s offensive numbers would’ve been better on a team that took more risks. At 6:12 the host starts talking about Guhle’s defensive game noting that it’s his “bread and butter” and he has the potential to be one of the best defensive defensemen in this draft in 2-3 years. Draft Dynasty really likes Guhle’s speed, physicality, and long reach to make defensive plays. At 7:24 the video moves onto Guhle’s offensive game, praising his shot for it’s quick release and power. He also praises Guhle’s stick handling ability though he notes he could continue to improve it. The area Guhle can improve most, according to Draft Dynasty, is his playmaking ability. Draft Dynasty says Guhle’s NHL comparable would be Jaccob Slavin or Josh Morrissey.
An Opinion of Sorts
Overall, I hold a fairly favorable opinion about Guhle as a legitimate NHL prospect. I like that has a solid frame to pack more muscle as he climbs the pro ranks. I like that he is already a solid skater with the ability to move in all directions whether in his own end or in the offensive zone. For a two-way defenseman, I’m fine that his game skews more to the defensive side since that’s what his position calls for. He has the hockey IQ, strength, and long stick to win puck battles, break up zone entries with his excellent gap control, and frustrate the opposition. His breakouts aren’t complicated but simple and effective. In the offensive zone he doesn’t take a lot of risks but makes good use of his quick, hard shot to either score himself or get pucks on net for his teammates down low to win and score. His passing game, especially on the PP, is straightforward but works. I think his offensive ability is limited at the NHL level but his strong defensive game should help him become a consistent player. While I think his ceiling is more like that of a 2nd pairing defenseman, I think he has a safer game to make it to the NHL level and play for awhile.
If the Devils do have that third 1st round pick at #17, I think it would be a reach to take Guhle there. I see him more of a late 1st to 2nd round talent and with the forward talent available in this draft, I’d rather go for someone with a little bit more upside, even if it’s more of a risk. If the Devils find a way to trade back in the 1st round for more assets or into the 2nd round, then I think it would be justifiable to take Guhle there. I wouldn’t reach on him at #17 though.
What are your thoughts on Kaiden Guhle? Do you view him as a 1st round talent or later? Do you have interests in the Devils using a potential 3rd 1st round pick on him? Would you rather see if they could find a way to trade into the late 1st/2nd round to try to grab him? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!