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Guhle Impresses in His First Pro Season

Brendan Guhle has the skills, mindset and love for the game that the Sabres need

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Guhle didn’t disappoint in his first professional season. He was a highly regarded prospect by some and even considered the top prospect in the Sabres system depending on who you asked.

The 20-year-old defender gave us a glimpse of the speed and skill he’ll bring to the blue line in the future during his 18 game stint in the NHL this season.

Calm and Confident

Guhle was drafted in the second round (51st overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft by the Sabres and former General Manager Tim Murray. The Edmonton native made a good impression right out of the gate.

He was one of the final cuts of training camp before the 2015-16 season. A hit from the then Toronto Maple Leafs defender Dion Phaneuf resulted in an injury late in the preseason that derailed any hope of achieving the unexpected. While Guhle was considered part of the roster on opening night in 2015, he never played a game in the NHL and was returned to juniors when he was healthy.

He developed very well in WHL playing for Prince Albert and Prince George. The excitement continued to build around his potential and we got a very brief glimpse during a three-game emergency recall from juniors in the 2016-17 season.

This season Guhle made the jump to the professional level and become a key component on the blue line for the Rochester Americans of the AHL. He’s played 47 games with the Amerks this season recording eight goals and 24 points over that time.

An injury in the middle of the season that forced him to miss a few weeks set him back, but he rebounded which is one of his best qualities as a player. He’s mature, calm and confident for a player of his age. He loves to play the game and be creative on the ice.

“I was just playing out there and trying to have fun,” said Guhle when he was asked about a particular play after a game in late March.

He started this season with a no-fear attitude and it has paid off for him. “I’m not worried about making a mistake or anything like that. I’m just going out there and playing free,” said Guhle after his Sabres debut in January.

That type of attitude shows in his play on the ice. Good or bad he doesn’t allow a particular sequence, play, or shift change how he plays the game.

Even though Guhle only spent three games with the Sabres last season it went a long way in how he approached this season. After his Sabres debut, he said, “I feel like I’m more confident...using my skating more and trying things I wouldn’t try last year.”

Speed and Skill

The young defender possesses excellent speed and is a very smooth skater. A skill that is extremely lacking on the current roster. At times this season, he looked like he played too fast for players on the roster. Similar to what we see Jack Eichel struggle with at times. Not their faults, but a reality of the current status of the team.

Guhle is the exact type of defender that Phil Housley wants in his system. Quick puck-mover who isn’t afraid to get up in the play.

We didn’t see a lot of upside offensively on the stat sheet at least from Guhle in his 18 games this season. He did record five assists but was unable to find the back of the net for his first NHL goal. Some of that can be chalked up to the players around him not being able to properly utilize his ability on the rush.

He was also one of the better possession players at even strength. Guhle was third on the team among players who appeared in at least 10 games in Corsi with a 51.0 and fourth in relative Corsi with a 4.3.

Everything wasn’t perfect in Guhle’s game throughout the season. He had some bad turnovers and at times struggled with the speed of other players at the NHL level. Both of those issues are correctable and should get better with more experience.

Guhle has the opportunity to put the exclamation point on his season now that he’s back with the Amerks. He’ll have the opportunity to anchor the blue line in what will hopefully be a deep Calder Cup playoff run for the Sabres minor league affiliate.

Looking ahead, the potential upgrade Guhle can give the Sabres defense group in a full season is something to be excited about.