Kaiden Guhle has winning on his mind
By Marc Dumont
It’s normal to focus on talent and potential when discussing a freshly-drafted player, especially one lucky enough to hear his name called in the first round.
Kaiden Guhle certainly possesses an impressive skillset.
Standing at 6-foot-3, Guhle has made a habit of using his impressive wingspan and superior physical frame to bully opposing forwards and become a stalwart presence on the blue line. In addition to his defensive prowess, Guhle’s skating is considered one of his best assets.
He’s not just fast for a ‘a big guy’. He’s simply an excellent skater, full stop.
“He’s a huge kid with excellent skating abilities and he competes extremely hard,” explained Mark Edwards, Director of Scouting for HockeyProspect.com.
With 11 goals in 64 games for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, including five power play goals and three game winners, Guhle established himself as a player with significant offensive potential, which hinges on his ability to finesse pucks through traffic.
He can walk the blue line on the power play, using his excellent agility to disrupt defensive positioning and open up passing lanes for his teammates in the process.
But there’s more to Guhle than his ability to dominate on the ice.
Prince Albert head coach Marc Habscheid was quick to sing Guhle’s praises for his on-ice play, but would have been remiss if he didn’t underline the young rearguard’s stoic personality.
“He’s a special guy in terms of his attitude,” said Habscheid. “Everyone sees what he does on the ice, but the way he is as a person separates him from a lot of kids of his age.”
As the first-overall pick in the 2017 Bantam Draft, the then-16-year-old Guhle arrived in Prince Albert with an endless supply of pedigree and confidence. But given the strength of the Raiders’ roster, he was often caught on the outside-looking-in, as is the case for most rookies when they join a much stronger league.
“There were games where he was a healthy scratch,” said Habscheid. “And there were games where he played five or six minutes. Not once during the season did he complain. It takes a special person to go through that, especially at just 16 years old. He didn’t want any special treatment. He just wanted to be one of the boys.”
His strength of character, reminiscent of the current Canadiens captain, extends beyond his early trials and tribulations.
“He understands what it takes to be a good teammate,” said Habscheid. “He wants to learn. He respects other people. He’s likable. Those are things some people may think aren’t important, but in a locker room, they’re often the most important. He’s a good kid because of how he was brought up.”
But Guhle, whose brother Brendan — a defenseman for the Anaheim Ducks — also played for the Prince Albert Raiders, doesn’t just command respect in the locker room. His thirst to win is unquenchable, and more importantly, it’s infectious.
“He pulls other guys with him, too,” said Habscheid “That’s another thing that makes him special. He improves his teammates. It’s one thing to ask himself to take it to another level, but it’s another to pull your teammates to another level.”
Just as Habscheid credits Guhle’s parents, Carrianne and Mark, for Kaiden’s old soul, the Canadiens’ 2020 first rounder is quick to echo the sentiment.
“My parents never played hockey,” said Guhle. “They didn’t know much about hockey at all until we started playing. So, I think, in a good way, that helped. It just let us play freely. We didn’t have to worry about our parents getting mad at us if we had a bad game. They’re always there to support us.
“They’ve been huge for me and Brendan. They’re always so supportive. And the only thing they wanted was for us to work hard.”
Guhle’s respect for his parents is boundless, and the same can almost be said when it comes to his brother, who gave him plenty of advice prior to the Draft.
‘Almost’ being the key word.
While there’s no doubt he admires and appreciates his brother’s guidance, that admiration is not infinite. His desire to win, however, is.
“No friends on the ice,” said Guhle without skipping a beat. “I think we would both have the exact same mentality. We both want to win, we both compete really hard. So, no, I would definitely not hesitate [to throw a big hit] if I get the chance.”
That desire to win goes beyond his desire to bring another Memorial Cup to Prince Albert.
He’s not the kind of person who will guarantee a Stanley Cup, or even an NHL career. That’s simply not his modus operandi. He covers his words carefully with a heavy coat of humility. But that doesn’t stop him from discussing the ultimate goal. His comments are true to Guhle form.
He’s not in it for the accolades or the ring, but rather, for the fans.
“Everybody wants to get to the NHL,” said Guhle. “And once they’re in the NHL, it’s to win a Stanley Cup. So that’s definitely my goal. And I think winning, winning a Stanley Cup at the Bell Centre would just be unbelievable. I know the fans. They love their Canadiens. So I think that’d be a great thing for the city. I’d be very, very, very happy to win a Stanley Cup.”
A desire to win, an impressive skill set and an incredibly humble approach is a quick path to becoming a fan favorite, but Guhle is well aware he has a lot of work to do before he can start realistically dreaming about a parade down Saint-Catherine Street.
He’ll have plenty of time to do so before joining the NHL, though if his attitude is any indication, his current coach all but guarantees a seamless introduction into his next locker room.
“That’s why he’ll fit with an NHL team,” said Habscheid. “I don’t think he’s going to come in and take over the room. That’s not how it works at that level, and he’s good with that. He just wants to be part of a team, and he just wants to win.”