Injuries to Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson now peg Kaiden Guhle as the top left-handed defenceman on the team for a few weeks, a huge opportunity for the youngster to prove he shouldn’t be part of the prospect rotation this season.
The Montreal Canadiens’ defence corps wasn’t seen as very strong on paper, but injuries to their two top defencemen for a few weeks at the minimum are going to put further strain on what will be the league’s most inexperienced defensive unit.
General manager Kent Hughes has spoken about how this season is going to be a balancing act, alongside the coaching staff, in order to ensure the club’s young prospects are on the right path.
However, he’s also said that, if a prospect earns his ice time, he won’t hold them back from playing those big minutes.
“If we see a player needs to be in Laval for his development, he’ll be in Laval, regardless of what the coaches think,” said Hughes. “But if a young player is playing well and will challenge a veteran on the last year of a deal, we have to be fair to the room as well. If we played someone just to put them in a showcase, it would be unfair for the room. We’ll have to find a balance. ”
That’s a prime opportunity for the club’s most promising prospect on the backend to take the bull by the horns and run with this new responsibility.
With Guhle forming the top pairing for the Canadiens with veteran David Savard in Mike Matheson’s stead, he’ll be called to play some big minutes for the club and will be deployed in key situations, especially at even strength and on the PK.
It may have only been one game, but Guhle was the most used defenceman for the Canadiens against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the 20-year-old played like a seasoned veteran lining up against Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on a regular basis.
Logging 22:34 of ice time in his first game in the NHL against one of the league’s most potent offensive units and sporting an expected goal differential of 61% is nothing to laugh at. It shows the maturity in Guhle’s game and how versatile he’s become, especially after his time with the Edmonton Oil Kings last season.
Guhle’s strong play at 1-on1s as well as his quick transition game make him an essential piece of the team moving forward, and he will now have the ability to show the management team.
The next coming games will be interesting for Guhle, as the Canadiens play potent offensive clubs like the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild in the next 10 days; meaning Guhle will have some of the league’s best offensive players to cover very early in his career.
If he can come out of those games as well as he did against the Maple Leafs, it will go a long way in convincing management that he has no business seeing any time in Laval this season.