There is a group of five or so young defencemen on the Montreal Canadiens who know that the National Hockey League is within reach. Among that group is 2020 first-round pick Kaiden Guhle.
In his first pre-season game of the season, Guhle looked the part.
The thing that stuck out most for me was his skating. It was always a strength of his game, but there were times where he carried the puck where it looked effortless.
Guys who are 6’2”, 205lbs aren’t supposed to move like that.
When he played in the American Hockey League two years ago, he looked like he belonged, and I got the same impression when I saw him against the Devils. Sure, that wasn’t a full NHL lineup, but the tools of his game showed his game has taken a step since the Memorial Cup.
Offence generation was never a big part of Guhle’s game, but if you can enter the zone like that, you’re going to generate offence. The ability and confidence to do that is something that will serve him well and what makes him a sure-fire future NHLer.
There will be growing pains, and without knowing the ins and outs of the Canadiens’ penalty killing strategy, following his man behind the net seemed to open up a passing lane into the slot. That’s something that can be corrected and that wouldn’t necessarily be something he would learn in the American Hockey League.
A patient approach with any of the young players in camp is necessary. A player being sent to the AHL because they aren’t ready at 18, or 20, or 22 doesn’t bother me. However, when a player can demonstrate that they may be ready for that step, that doesn’t bother me either.
It’s still very early in pre-season and one game is not enough to make any declarations, but Guhle’s first impression was a very good start.