Although this is only his first appearance at the World Junior Championships, Kaiden Guhle shone in all 4 of his team’s games. He scored two goals in smashing victories for Canada, but even ignoring his offensive production Guhle was impressive.
Watch this short excerpt from his December 31st game against Finland to get an idea of what he did.
Not only was Guhle extremely strong defensively and physically dominant, but he also proved to be one of the best defencemen of the tournament when it came to limiting zone entries when the opponents control the puck and exiting the defensive zone with the disc to make the transition.
That a player is successful at the World Junior Championship is usually a good thing, but it is even more important that said player shows year-over-year progression, and that is definitely the case for the Canadiens’ young defenceman.
But how has Kaiden Guhle improved since last season?
While playing for Prince Albert in the WHL in 2019-2020, Guhle’s main weaknesses were a clumsy puck handling that inhibited his offensive play, a distinct lack of offensive creativity, and a fairly average first pass for a first-round defenceman.
As such, while these flaws still exist, Guhle seems more comfortable, more fluid with the puck, and more authoritative with his transition passes as well. And if he’s still not a creative player, at least he’s being more incisive with his offensive play and positioning, not to mention that he’s now using his powerful slap shot more often.
In addition, his already strong skate has improved during the off-season. And Kaiden Guhle’s acceleration on the ice is now nothing short of excellent, even by National League standards.
This improvement in his mobility allows the young prospect from the Montreal Canadiens to put even more of his best attributes – his intelligence on the ice, his great defensive skills, and his physical play – to the forefront, making him even more effective in all facets of the game.
But what does that mean for Guhle’s future?
It’s true that Kaiden Guhle is not quite as dynamic as Romanov was when he was 18 years old at the 2019 World Championship. But the great quality of his play in 2021 and his obvious progression could eventually lead the young defenceman to become a top 4 D-man for the Canadien.
In fact, Guhle may even become a #1 defenseman for Montreal, a Shea Weber 2.0, if he further develops his puck handling, passing skills, shooting and reading of the game, while gaining more confidence and experience. Of course, this is far from being the most likely outcome and we need to moderate our ardour, but the potential is there.
Still, Romanov and Guhle, in addition to the Brook, Fleury, Struble, Harris, Mete and Juulsen of the club, are a great base to attempt to replace Weber and Petry, who are starting to get old, in the years to come.
Finally, for those who would like to continue to follow Kaiden Guhle’s progress, he and the Junior Canada Team will return to the rink for the quarter-finals of the tournament today at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time against the Czech Republic.
Translated by Michel-Alexandre Broekaert