When it became clear that Michael Matheson was not going to start the season healthy, it essentially meant that Kaiden Guhle would be the Montreal Canadiens’ number-one defenceman on the left side.
In the pre-season, it looked like Guhle was a lock to make the NHL roster. He was just far and away the best of the players fighting for a spot. Through four games, it’s laughable it was even a question.
Let me get one thing out of the way quickly: there will be growing pains. There will be ups and downs. Development is not linear. Saying ‘it will only go up from here’ is false, it’s never that way. There will be games where he will end up overmatched by the opponent.
Monday night, against one of the best players in hockey history, who had three points in each of his first two games to start the season, was not one of those nights.
Sidney Crosby played 15:58 of even strength hockey on Monday night. Of that 15:58, 13:33 came against Guhle.
In those minutes, the Canadiens had a 21-8 advantage in shots towards the goal, 11-3 advantage in shots on goal, a 10-6 advantage in scoring chances, and a 2-0 advantage in goals.
As Eric Engels pointed out on Twitter, even when including power play numbers for Crosby, the performance was impressive.
According to @NatStatTrick, Kaiden Guhle was up against Sidney Crosby for 15:28 of the Penguins captain's 18:58 tonight. Helped hold him to zero points and just one shot on net.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) October 18, 2022
Not many players can have a performance like this when hard-matched against Crosby. To have it happen in just his fourth career game is pretty remarkable.
It is just one game, yes, and it is a small sample — and shutting down Crosby is a team effort — but the poise that Guhle has shown to date shows you he’s going to be a star. It’s not even all about his defence. His skating and vision with the puck allows him to be a threat in both zones.
His 24:43 was also the most of any player on the ice — for either team — and he earned the first two points (both assists) of his career.
I’m not saying Guhle is already a #1 defenceman, because I think it’s way too early to say that, but he’s playing like one, and he will become one.
Update: This compilation on Guhle’s game on Monday is too good to leave out of this article.
Kaiden Guhle (MTL21) played a suffocating two-way game in MTL's 3-2 comeback win over PIT.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) October 18, 2022
The rookie tallied two assists with a 63% xGF% in 24 minutes, 60% of which was head-to-head with #87.
Here are his most notable plays and puck touches from last night. #GoHabsGo #NHLPotN pic.twitter.com/mksymrHSv2