By JD Lagrange – History has taught us that every prospect develops into his own player. Therefore, when playing the comparison game, it’s not to say that prospect A will be player B in the NHL, the current or past player he’s being compared to. However, when talking about young hockey players, prospects, it is hard not to fall in the trap of trying to compare them to an established one, or to a former player.
The reason why we tend to do comparisons to start with is to provide a rough idea of a prospect’s skills’ set and style of play. No more. For example, there’s no sense trying to compare Juraj Slafkovsky to Johnny Gaudreau. 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.
With that out of the way, allow me to preface this by stating that 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 and personality.
Both guys are big. 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. Let’s look at their statistics for the three years they each spent playing junior hockey.
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. And of course, Weber is known for having a bomb of a shot.
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, by letting a good camp blind them of what’s good for the kid and for his development. This is why Guhle was sent back to 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 this upcoming fall.
Guhle will not be nicknamed Man Mountain. But he will certainly earn a nickname of his own. With that said, he does have some Weber in him and that’s exciting if you’re a Habs’ fan.