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.

1st season70GP65
2nd season60GP64
3rd season55GP42

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.

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Savard, Bergevin and Quebec Players: Numbers Don’t Lie

By JD Lagrange – Since retiring, Hall of Famer and former Canadiens’ general manager Serge Savard hasn’t been shy about telling everyone what he thinks of the situation when asked about his old team. For journalists, Savard is a candy because he says what he thinks and, let’s face it, he has some credibility. After all, he’s the last general manager to bring Lord Stanley to the NHL’s most successful franchise, and he did it twice, in 1986 and 1993. But sometimes it feels like “the Senator” likes to hear himself talk and what he says does not always hold water. This is particularly true when he talks about the French Canadian players of the Canadiens.

Savard is a close friend of the Molson family and Geoff Molson hired him as a personal consultant when the team was looking for a General Manager in the spring of 2012. It was he who helped Molson choose Marc Bergevin as the position back then. But when it comes to language, the former number 18 choses to criticize Bergevin’s work for the lack of Quebecers on the team. Indeed, he once said during an interview at RDS “5 à 7”, that he had warned Bergevin of the importance of scouting Quebec players.

“I told him, but I guess he didn’t listen. I told him that people will let him win in English, but they won’t let him lose in English…” – Serge Savard

Serge Savard

For many more pragmatic people, like yours truly, such statements did not sit well. It seems like the landscape has changed since the mid-80s, mid-90s and today. Until now, I had no solid numbers to base it on. We knew that there are more teams today. But upon doing extensive research, I realized how unrealistic, unfair, and frankly out of touch with reality Savard’s comments were. To be fair, I doubt he knows how unrealistic he is, but here are the facts. Believe it or not, I present only a small portion of the research that I have done, as I don’t want to bore you with numbers. But it all goes in the same direction.

The Canadian Hockey League

The CHL is made up of the three major junior hockey leagues in Canada: the Western Hockey League (WHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (LHJMQ). For a long time, these three leagues were only for players born in Canada. Then all three leagues changed their rules allowing “outsiders”, or “imports”.

Today, each CHL team is allowed to dress and play a maximum of two foreign players each season, who are selected each year through the CHL Import Draft process. There are 60 teams in the CHL: 22 in the WHL, 20 in the OHL and 18 in the QMJHL. Therefore, this means a total of 120 foreign players across Canada. And because of that, 120 Canadian children cannot play and develop in the best junior leagues in their own country! No wonder someone as patriotic as Don Cherry is upset about this situation.

Additionally, the NHL is scouting more overseas and at American colleges than ever before. More American teams in the NHL means more Canadian-born players playing in the United States and having children there, who then in turn are playing hockey in the United States. All of these factors contribute over time to the decline in the number of Canadian-born players in the National Hockey League, even without accounting for imports. If I had pushed the reflection further, there would be even fewer Canadian players drafted, because these imported players are often high level talents (Ex: Artemi Panarin).

Before looking at the numbers, I separated them into two epochs. Savard was General Manager of the Canadiens from 1983 to 1995, while Bergevin has been general manager at Montreal since 2012, so his last selection was in 2021. Here are two obvious facts:

  1. There are more teams in the NHL now than in Savard’s day
  2. There are fewer Draft rounds to allow a team to select

I took the number of rounds per year under each GM, added them up and averaged them. I did the same for the number of teams, hence the fractions. Without further ado, let’s look at some numbers, shall we?

# of Rounds# of Teams% Draft Ratio/Round *CHL % Picks
*1 / # of Teams

Between 1983 and 1995, each team had 4 and a half more draft rounds than between 2012 and 2021. There were approximately eight more teams in the NHL between 2012-2021 than between 1983-1995. That’s eight more teams talking ahead of you for the next round, eight more players selected between each of your picks, eight fewer players available… each round. In the seventh round of today’s Draft, that’s more than 50 fewer players who were available for your team when it’s their turn to speak.

League by league

Now, let’s take a look at the performance of each of the three leagues individually.


Oh look, the QMJHL percentage has gone up! Good news, right? Wait…

The QMJHL and Quebecers

These QMJHL numbers don’t tell the whole story. You see, since the discussions are not about the number of players selected in the QMJHL, but rather the number of Quebecers selected by the Habs, I went further in my study. Let’s look at all players selected in this league and remove foreign players. I also removed players from the Maritimes who are not French-speaking. Yes, it was a lot of work (and research), but I didn’t want to do things halfway. So here is what I found…

Quebecois% Drafted of CHL% Drafted Overall# per TeamOdds of Drafting one *
Quebecois specific table
* % of Quebecois (of all drafted players) / # of teams

The percentage of Quebecers has dropped by more than 2.5%. What does that mean ? This means that the arrival of more European and American players in the QMJHL distorts the statistics of the league. More Europeans play and are selected in the QMJHL by NHL teams, but fewer Quebecers. This means that the QMJHL produces far less local talent in Quebec. In addition, there were almost seven fewer Quebecers per team between the two eras. That’s per team folks, not just on the Habs.


So, Mr. Savard… here is a summary of my research, which I compiled for you, yes, but also for the small group of politically motivated individuals in Quebec, who are going after the Canadiens and their current CEO for, according to them, failing to exercise due diligence in choosing local products.

  • Bergevin had four fewer rounds than Savard to choose players.
  • There were eight more teams under Bergevin than under Savard, so eight more teams choose between each selection.
  • The number of CHL players has dropped considerably since Savard.
  • There are fewer Quebecers drafted in the entire NHL than ever before (not just the Canadiens).
  • There are fewer Quebecers in the NHL than in Savard’s time, in the entire league.
  • The chances of drafting a Quebecer under Bergevin had almost decreased by 40% since the days of Savard (0.31% to 0.18%).

Want to point a finger at a culprit? Perhaps we should take a more informed approach and point the finger at the QMJHL instead. I would go even further and say that Hockey Quebec is doing a terrible job of not providing the talent needed to power the Q as well. The problem, Mr. Savard and company, is NOT Bergevin and the Canadians. It is up to the QMJHL and Hockey Quebec to work hand in hand to help promote young players to return to the game. And it is up to these leagues to ensure the proper development of these young men with a good ratio practice/game and better coach education, focusing on skills rather than systems for winning games. The odds will always be worse than they were under Savard, but at least there will be more choice, which is not the case today.

There is a glimmer of hope for the QMJHL and the Canadiens though, as Hockey Quebec has a very good man at the helm now in Jocelyn Thibault, and it looks like the 2022 Draft is rather promising… although not at the very top, but depth-wise at least. We shall find out.

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