Devils Draft Series: Kaiden Guhle, Safe Defensive Defenseman

Kaiden Guhle has a brother, Brandon, who was a second-round pick from Buffalo. (Photo by Canadien Hockey League)

Profile

Kaiden Guhle is an 18-year-old defenseman. He is a left-handed shot that is from Canada and is listed at 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds. He’s played the entirety of his junior career in his home country. In the final 2020 Draft Prospect Rankings, he ranks eighth. 

The Statistics

Guhle, as mentioned, has played his whole junior career in Canada. He started in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL), where he played 35 games in the 2015-16 season and totaled three goals and 21 assists. He then moved on to the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL), where he spent parts of two seasons. In his first season in the league, he racked up 40 points in 30 games as the captain of his team. In the second season, he had 39 points in 35 games. 

He made his WHL debut as a 15-year-old for only eight games in the 2017-18 season. In his first full season, he played 65 games for the Prince Albert Raiders as a bottom-pairing defenseman, with penalty-killing responsibilities, and racked up three goals and 14 assists. This season, Guhle was the Raiders’ primary defenseman who logged a ton of minutes and played in all circumstances. He racked up 40 games in 64 games, as well as a plus-23 rating.

The team he played for was not only the best defensively in the WHL, but the Canadian Hockey League as a whole. And he was the staple and primary defenseman on this team. This furthers Guhle’s standing as one of the top defensive prospects in this draft. 

Guhle’s Scouting Report

Strengths

Guhle is a defensive defenseman with two-way upside. His best strength is his overall defensive game. He uses his great height to play physically and often results in won board battles, as well as opponents facing difficulty in going by him one-on-one. Also, given his height, he has a stellar reach. This reach comes in handy not only in denying opponents on one-on-ones, but also helps deny zone entries, as well as create turnovers by stripping opponents via poke checks and also deflecting passes.

Another aspect where Guhle excels is his skating. For a 6-foot-2 defenseman, Guhle is a great skater. He has solid speed, great agility, and overall has smooth, powerful, and long strides. This skating ability helps him get back in transition, as well as always helping him stay in good defensive positioning. Guhle even explained himself how he thought his skating ability is the best part of his game (see below).

Excerpt taking from an article posted on NHL.com.

Another place where he does well is his shot. He has a pretty powerful slap shot, and for the most part, it always finds a path to the net. These are the two main aspects you want to see in a defenseman’s shot.

Weaknesses                                                                           

Guhle’s offensive game is what needs the most work. And it will also largely depend on what type of player he is able to develop into. By no means is he a liability offensively because he does have good assets, like his shot. However, his production is not on par with some of the other defensemen in this class. 

Distinct parts of his offensive game he needs to work on are his shot selection, as most are launched from basically the blue line. His stickhandling and puckhandling – which can apply to all areas of the ice, not only offensively – also is an area that needs improvement.

Another place he can improve is by adding more strength to his 6-foot-2 frame. By adding more strength, the physical nature of his game will be exemplified even more. In addition, his slap shot will see even more strength added, as well as his stride while skating will get stronger. 

Projection

Guhle projects out as a top-four, defensive-defenseman that will be a minutes-eater, as well as an extremely valuable penalty kill presence at the next level. The ability to transition into a two-way force is there, and by doing so would higher his ceiling. As of right now, his ceiling does have a limit due to his offensive abilities.

When things are said and done, Guhle, along with Jake Sanderson will be the two best defensive defensemen in the draft. The reasoning that Guhle will not be as high as a pick as Sanderson is due to Guhle’s offensive game. In comparison to William Wallinder, although Wallinder has a higher ceiling, Guhle is the much safer pick. 

Overall, you know what you are getting when selecting Guhle. He has one of the highest floors of any player in the first round, making him an extremely safe pick. Unlocking his offensive game will just go further in cementing Guhle as one of the top defensemen in this draft. All-in-all, I am really high on this kid. As for where he is going to be selected come draft day, expect him to come off the board in the early-20s. 

Guhle’s Fit With the Devils

I love the defensive abilities, consistency, and extremely high floor Guhle brings. The Devils need defensive help desperately, and he would go above and beyond in adding this to the team’s system.

Now, if the Devils have the sixth and 10th pick, each is too early. And if the Canucks pick does stand to be 17th, this may be slightly too early as well. However, it seems the Canucks pick has a great chance in slipping into the 20s and who knows, maybe the Coyotes make a run and that pick drops too. 

But either way, I would be thrilled if the Devils are able to come away with Guhle once the picks in the 20s roll around. He would provide an extremely safe, yet exciting defensive prospect in the team’s system.

Ranking of Evaluated Prospects

1. Alexis Lafrenière (no profile will be released)

2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)

3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)

4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)

5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)

6. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)

7. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)

8. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)

9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)

10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)

11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)

12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)

13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)

14. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)

15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)

16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)

17. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)

18. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)

19. Kaiden Guhle (Today)

20. Jacob Perreault (05/26/2020)

21. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)

22. Hendrix Lapierre (05/21/2020)

23. William Wallinder (05/23/2020)

24. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)

25. John-Jason Peterka (05/28/2020)

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