The Canadian | Kaiden Guhle struggles offensively

(Tempe, Arizona) Try to stay calm, but no, Kaiden Guhle is not the reincarnation of Erik Karlsson or John Carlson.

When the Habs drafted him in the first round, in 2020, recruiters were unanimous. His size, his skating and his sense of the game were his main assets. He was recognized as a good shot, but his offensive qualities were not at the top of his CV.

At his two training camps with the Canadiens, Guhle showed all observers an “as advertised” product. Since the start of this season, despite a few appearances on the power play, he has mainly been called upon to do the dirty work, which against the main opposing trio at even strength, which is shorthanded.

However, without much thought, the Albertan ranks second among NHL rookie defensemen in points, with 13. That’s only two less than Calen Addison of the Minnesota Wild. , whose vast majority of the harvest comes from the numerical advantage.

Guhle, of late, has seemed to be struggling offensively. In his last 10 games, he has 5 points – all assists.

It is not so much his production that is striking, but the freedoms he allows himself in attack. Monday night in Arizona, he carried the puck deep into the Coyotes’ zone on a streak that led directly to Cole Caufield’s goal. Late in the second period, he stole a puck from an opponent behind his own net and raced to the other end of the ice, where his team took advantage of a scoring chance.

Jonathan Drouin was on the ice during this last climb and remembered it perfectly when The Press mentioned it. “He’s starting to realize he has more time than he thinks,” Drouin said of his colleague Tuesday morning.

When you have a skate like his, you have to use it. He has a long stride, a great reach, he is able to guard the puck. He’s one of the best young defensemen in the NHL.

Jonathan Drouin, about Kaiden Guhle


Reporters asked head coach Martin St-Louis if Guhle got the green light to experiment with new things or if this offensive awakening happened naturally. The coach checked the second option.

“He reads the game in front of him; sometimes the game tells him he can support the offense, and other times it tells him to stay behind, St-Louis explained. He reads the game very well.”

Joel Edmundson, Guhle’s partner for a few games, offered a slightly different echo.

Some matches, I tell him: use your speed more, you can control the game! I encourage him on this path. He creates a lot of attack when he uses his feet, and he has the hands to match.

Joel Edmundson on Kaiden Guhle

The principal concerned, true to himself, did not engage in a long self-congratulatory analysis, quite the contrary. Instead, he argued that last season, his last as a junior, playing with the mighty Edmonton Oil Kings allowed him to hone that aspect of his game.

In fact, his one-point-per-game pace in 2021-22 was a serious leap from his previous campaigns.

“We had a good team and we often played ahead, so that gave me a lot of puck possession,” he said Tuesday. It allowed me to find my confidence and my comfort in the opposing zone. It paid off recently, I think, and I hope it continues. »

His confidence is something that St-Louis and Drouin also identified about him. Guhle himself praised the fact that his coach didn’t get the stick out with every mistake he made.

Also in defense

However, it is not only his offensive production that benefits from this aplomb.

Scholarly colleague Alexandre Gascon, of Radio-Canada, recently indicated in the podcast so hockey that the “eye test” painted a more flattering picture of Guhle than do advanced statistics. The latter, in fact, accurately describe how the youngster and his most consistent partner at the start of the season, David Savard, spent the majority of games in their zone.

However, for 10 games, the defensive indicators of Guhle are clearly on the rise.

The Canadian Kaiden Guhle struggles offensively

This is not nothing, especially not when you dwell on the quality of the players that Guhle faces at five against five. The five opposing forwards who have spent the most minutes on the ice 5-on-5 against him so far? Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Clayton Keller, Travis Boyd and Kirill Kaprizov. Quite the opposite of a walk in the park.

On the strength of these successes, he is also back on the numerical advantage, a phase of the game where he only appeared sporadically at the start of the campaign.

By chance? Absolutely not.

“At the start of the season, we wanted him to focus on his five-on-five game, especially because he was facing the best lines, detailed Martin St-Louis. We didn’t want to give him too much responsibility. Sometimes when you take too much, you’re not great at everything. You are average. »

However, “he shows us that we can give him more from time to time, increase his responsibilities”.

“We know he has an attack in his game, we’ll see how he manages that on the power play. »

The Canadiens will face the Colorado Avalanche this Wednesday night (8 p.m.) in Denver.

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The Canadian | Kaiden Guhle struggles offensively

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