The Montreal Canadiens have the solution to their playoff woes, and his name is Kaiden Guhle.
The Canadiens have had an issue with their powerplay for some time. Dating back to the 2017-2018 season, the Canadiens have the worst power play success rate in the NHL over that span, with 15.3%.
The Montreal Canadiens continue to play a diamond formation on the powerplay (a 1-3-1 formation), and have seemingly tried every player they could to quarterback the top of the point. Micheal Matheson is a solid option, but the power play has never really been his thing, as he’s a top-end, 5-on-5 defenceman due to his transition.
Ironically enough, the player who has shown the most efficacy in playing the point on the top of a diamond power play is Kaiden Guhle, and just like in his junior career, all he needs is a shot.
The Montreal Canadiens haven’t had a defenceman that could walk the line on the power play and be a bonafide dual-threat for a very long time.
Kaiden Guhle has been running power plays for years, be it with the Prince Albert Raiders, WHL-champion Edmonton Oil Kings or Team Canada.
Having initially been viewed as a solid two-way defenceman, Guhle began to develop his shooting mechanics in junior as he was given more responsibility on the power play.
In his draft year (2019-2020), he put up an impressive 11 goals in 64 games as an 18-year-old; with five coming on the man advantage.
— Etienne Ferland (@EtienneFerland) December 30, 2020
Guhle was extremely effective because opponents didn’t know what was about to happen. He looked like he could pass the puck, but would then quickly unload a strong, but precise wright-shot that could be the goaltender clean.
When Kaiden Guhle was placed on Team Canada’s second power play unit as an 18-year-old during the 2021 World Juniors, it raised many eyebrows, as there were more offensive defencemen available.
But, just like in the WHL, all Guhle needed was a chance to show he belonged, and he did just that, almost immediately (see the clip above).
As Guhle developed more over the following two years, he truly found his niche at the top of the diamond formation with the Edmonton Oil Kings; as his mobility and quick wrist-shot caused havoc in front.
Guhle has the one-timer, wrist-shot and slapshot necessary to be a true shooting option from the point, something the Canadiens lack at the moment (outside of Arber Xhekaj).
But that’s not the only thing Guhle has going for him.
#GoHabsGo Kaiden Guhle with a smart PP shift here. Moves the puck, gets into position and gets a quick shot that almost gets through.
I like his release. pic.twitter.com/AU6xQmc8Fn
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) January 26, 2022
Blue Line Mobility
Gule also has exceptional skating that allows him to jump on loose pucks and distribute them to teammates with great ease and in little time.
He’s able to glide across the blue line with the puck and assess his best options, before taking a decision. In doing so, he drives defenders to him, and opens up passing lanes in in the slot, something Cole Caufield desperately needs someone to do to finally get some breathing room on the man advantage.
Nothing doing here, but I like Kaiden Guhle's composure at the blue line on the PP.
Bides his time, and puts a good shot on goal. Demek had a good chance to tip this but barely missed. pic.twitter.com/DpeP5MTLzO
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) June 4, 2022
Because of Guhle’s great anticipation, he’s able to pounce on pucks and beat defenders in 1-on-1 battles. This ensures that the Canadiens not only maintain possession of the puck for far longer than they have this season.
When Guhle moved from the Prince Albert Raiders to the Edmonton Oil Kings last season, he was able to perfect this part of his game, and it paid off most handsomely in the playoffs.
Guhle potted eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in just 19 games in the WHL playoffs en route to being named MVP. Although his defensive play was a big part of that nomination, his significant uptick in offensive production was the deciding factor.
Former Oil Kings coach Brad Lauer gave Guhle the chance to display his offensive talents, and the Oil Kings thrived. But the signs were always there.
His name is Kaiden Guhle and he's taking the #WHLChampionship by storm!
— The WHL (@TheWHL) June 14, 2022
It’s not like Kaiden Guhle hasn’t earned the opportunity so far this season, as he leads all rookie defencemen in the NHL with 12 even-strength points in just 31 games.
Want a more tantalizing stat? Guhle’s 12 even strength points, through just 31 games, is the second highest the Montreal Canadiens have seen since the 1990-1991 season. P.K. Subban had the highest in that span with 20 points, through 77 games.
Guhle is on pace to surpass even Subban’s even strength production, and despite being used solely at even strength and on the penalty kill, it may be more worthwhile for the youngster to have some, not all, of his defensive responsbilities shifted to Jordan Harris, so that he may gets some time on the top power play wave.
The normal counter argument about not wanting to give a rookie too much too quick is very valid here, but, if this season is truly about development, then it’s best to simply get out of Kaiden Guhle’s way.
He’s going to claim that spot on the top power play wave eventually, until a true power play quarterback is eventually acquired/developed (like Lane Hutson); and if history has shown us anything, he’d likely do a solid job in the role.
All Kaiden Guhle ever needs is an opportunity; he takes care of the rest.
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