When talking about young hockey players, prospects, it is hard not to fall in the trap of trying to compare a young player to an established one, or to a former player. Some people make the mistake of thinking that when such comparisons are being made, that we are projecting this young prospect to become like the player he’s being compared to. It’s far from being the case. It’s an overall idea of the style of play this young prospect displays, and a somewhat similar style played by the NHL player in comparison. Every player is different and the prospects will become themselves.
With that out of the way, I was given the privilege of watching Shea Weber play junior hockey in Kelowna, British Columbia. At the time, I lived in Penticton and I made the 40 minutes drive to watch the Rockets play. They had great teams back then. Little did I know then, that Weber would become one of my very favourite players in the NHL one day. And that happened well before he was traded to my beloved Montreal Canadiens.
Similarities in Guhle
When I saw Kaiden Guhle play at the World Junior Championships last winter, I immediately got flashbacks of Weber. Of course, with Man Mountain playing in Montreal, it was easy to recall his junior days in Kelowna. I could not help myself but noticing the similarities not only in their styles, but in their demeanour.
Both guys are imposing. Both play defense. Both are well rounded defensemen, not the uni-dimensional offensive-minded defensemen catching the average fans’ eye. They can produce offensively but won’t be the top points getters, for the most part. But they are both dominant in their zone as shut-down defensemen, and they are physically imposing, causing opponents to take notice when they’re on the ice.
But one similarity jumps to mind as well, one that is not quite as noticeable. Guhle, much like Weber, is a man of few words. He is not exuberant or flashy. While he will face the media, he likes to fly under the radar, although his success makes him stand out. Like Weber, young Guhle is well respected by his teammates and has this maturity level, this look like he means business. Both are players that teammates will rally behind.
Junior hockey comparison
We cannot talk about both guys without drawing the similarity in their junior career. Of course, Guhle has not finished his last year of junior so the stats aren’t complete yet, but it will give you an idea nonetheless.
For one thing, although they played in different times, both players played their junior hockey in the WHL, a ligue known for its physicality. It seems like Guhle, at this point, has more offensive upside and while physical, he is not as susceptible to taking penalties. True that Weber did drop the gloves quite a bit in junior, something Guhle doesn’t do as much. I wish the WHL had the hits statistics as I’d be curious to see the difference.
In his first year pro, Weber played 46 games in the AHL and 28 in Nashville. Guhle looked pretty good in exhibition games for the Canadiens and he could have been rushed and stuck with the team. But Marc Bergevin and his team didn’t want to repeat the same mistake they had just made with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, but letting a good camp blind them of what’s good for the kid and for his development. This is why Guhle is playing junior hockey.
“He has pro habits. Even when he’s playing junior, he carries himself and he plays and he leads like a pro. So much to like about his game, about him as a person and his personality and his character. So, it’s just about him continuing to progress. Whether he’s captain or not, he’s experienced and he’s been through it. That’s just his nature, too. He has a presence about him already. Having said that, you never stop learning. You never stop progressing and getting better. That doesn’t even have to be said to him; he knows it, that’s engrained in his thought process and his DNA.” ~ Canadiens Director of Player Development Rob Ramage on Kaiden Guhle
Habs’ fans will remember that Josh Brook almost made the team out of junior as well, but the following camp, he didn’t do as well. He has since been victimized by countless injuries but it will be interesting to see how Guhle does at camp next fall. At the end of his junior season though, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to think that he could join the Laval Rocket for a playoffs’ push… depending if they’re still in it and how far the Edmonton Oil Kings make it.
World Juniors 2022
Kaiden Guhle was named Captain of Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships starting on Boxing Day. This is a great honour and it comes at no surprise. As an 18 year-old last year, he already was one of Canada’s leaders at the same tournament and he opened our eyes to his true potential.