Guhle – Skating In Weber’s Shadow

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.

Shea Weber – 2004

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.

Season WHLWEBERGUHLE
1st season70GP65
2G3
16A14
18PTS17
+25+/-+17
167PIM40
2nd season60GP64
12G11
20A29
32PTS40
+23+/-+23
126PIM56
3rd season55GP42
12G7
29A33
41PTS40
+12+/-+22
95PIM57

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.

Future

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.

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On Team Canada, “A” is for Anderson

Love him or hate him, or anything in between, one would have to be of bad faith to deny that former Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t an expert at big trades. The rest is debatable but there is no doubt that during his nine plus years at the helm of the Habs, he has not lost many trades, let alone ones involving big name players.

Remember when Bergevin acquired Jeff Petry from the Edmonton Oilers for a second and fourth round pick? Or perhaps you recall when he got Phillip Danault and a second round pick (Alexander Romanov) from the Chicago Blackhawks for pending UFAs Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann? He also traded Alex Galchenyuk to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi, who then had a 72-points season with the Habs. Max Pacioretty was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a second round pick, a pick which was later traded to draft Mattias Norlinder. The one that spilled a lot of ink, the trade he was most criticized about, was when he traded for Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators for fan favourite P.K. Subban. Even the most vocal at the time now recognize that Bergevin won that trade by a landslide.

The one trade that I want to talk about today, though, is then one when the former Canadiens’ GM traded a struggling Domi in his second season in Montreal, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for power forward Josh Anderson.

The power horse

Back on October 6, 2020, the Canadiens announced that they had traded Max Domi and a third round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Anderson.

The trade, as most big trades are, was a bit controversial in Montreal as the then 26-year-old Anderson had only one goal and four points in 26 games with the Blue Jackets the previous season. He hadn’t played since March after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery. Both Domi and Anderson were pending RFAs and two days after the trade, Bergevin signed the 6-foot 3-inches, 222 lbs winger to a seven-year, $38.5 million contract extension.

Anderson displays a rare combination of size, speed, physicality and goals’ scoring abilities while being defensively responsible. He can and will drop the gloves if or when needed as well. In two seasons since the trade (one shortened by COVID), he has scored 36 goals in 121 regular season’s games, which is the equivalent of 24 goals over an 82-games season. The power forward has also lit the lamp five times during the Canadiens’ playoffs’ run last year.

Leadership

Anderson loves playing in Montreal, in a hockey market. At the end of the season, he told every reporter that he did not want to be traded after the team’s horrible season. He wants to be part of the solution and, as he stated, he did not sign in Montreal for seven years to be traded after a couple of years.

Multiple times in the two seasons, he has shown leadership qualities. When he spoke to the media after the team’s poor effort, he has always backed his words by his actions, having a good game the following night. Many of us qualify him as a Brendan Gallagher on steroids. A hard working player making his opponents aware when he’s on the ice, a player who can hurt the opponents in many different ways.

Team Canada invited him to the World Championships this year, an invitation that Anderson accepted. The brass of Hockey Canada recognized the Canadiens’ forward’s leadership qualities when they gave him the title of assistant-captain of the team. And while they may not give him the captaincy in Montreal, it’s just a matter of time before the Canadiens imitate Team Canada and put an “A” on his jersey… as “A” is for Anderson.

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