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2020 Draft Preview: Kaiden Guhle

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If the Oilers are interested in defenders, they need to look at Guhle

Prince Albert Raiders v Kelowna Rockets Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

As the Edmonton Oilers, and their fans, get ready for the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft, some prospects seem to be ones which may suit the Oilers less than ideal draft situation. With only one pick in the first four rounds, the Oilers need to carefully select a prospect that they believe will be well suited or valuable to someone else. Ken Holland may have some magic planed for draft day, but that shouldn’t be counted on. It never works out well for the Oilers fans to set expectations too high.

Draft Considerations

One such prospect is Kaiden Guhle. Guhle has been ranked as a middle of the first-round prospect – rankings vary from eighth (NHL North American skaters) to twenty-fifth. With the Oilers picking at fourteenth, Guhle may be a prospect for the Oilers to take a very hard and long look at if he’s on the board. There is quite a spread in the rankings which have been assigned to Guhle, but he is consistently ranked in the first round of the draft. The third ranked defender for NHl Central Scouting, Guhle has “one to watch” practically replacing his namebar.

Offensive and Defensive Strengths

Guhle is a defender from Sherwood Park. At 6’3” and about 190 lbs, Guhle isn’t the most imposing defender found in the WHL, but Guhle’s skating is explosive. He’s annoyingly fast and smart; he has no trouble playing physical but he doesn’t disadvantage his team by taking stupid penalties.

He’s able to jump up in the play and get back quickly should it be required. With decent hockey sense and ability to see the ice, Guhle’s passing is one of his stronger assets. This carries forward into his ability to be successful on the powerplay.

His shot is impressive and one of Guhle’s more notable positive traits is his strong stick work, which allows him to be a defensive power. Guhle is impactful along the boards and in front of the net but is able to force offensive players away from more high probability areas. His defensive mindset, coupled with some offensive potential, makes Guhle something more compelling than if he showed potential as an offensive defender or a strictly stay at home defender.

History

Guhle’s played the last two seasons with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders. He was the first overall selection in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft. Guhle then played eight games in the 2017-2018 season with the Raiders, most probably partly as an injury call up.

With the Raiders, Guhle won an WHL championship in 2018-2019. Unfortunately for him, the Raiders seemed to have a faster bounce back than some awful WHL teams, and Guhle saw only limited minutes during the 2018-2019 season.

In his 2018-2019 season, Guhle also participated in the Canadian U17 program. He captained the 2018 U17 Canada Red team to a silver medal. This helps to explain why Guhle’s WHL high for games played is 65 from the 2018-2019 season. He also added 23 playoff games and 3 Memorial Cup games during his 2018-2019 season.

Guhle was also selected to be part of the 2019-2020 U18 Gretzky Hlinka Cup. Another international silver medal in his trophy case, Guhle returned to the WHL to play a much-enhanced role for the Raiders defense.

His 2019-2020 season was cut short due to the COVID pandemic. Despite the shortened season, Guhle more than doubled his points. He notched an impressive forty points in sixty-four games.

Oilers Draft Considerations

Guhle shoots left, which may not be ideal for the Oilers, but with all the talk about trading Oilers defenders may not be the barrier it once was. He doesn’t put up points like some WHL defenders – he’s about twentieth in scoring for WHL defenders – and he’s not a forward. With the Oilers drafting Broberg with their top pick at the last draft, it is entirely possible they will not be willing to consider another defender.

The Oilers have a had little success in developing defenders and also desperately need depth for their forward lines. While understandably, the Oilers may not acquire either forward depth or secondary scoring at the Draft, it is worth noting that Guhle doesn’t appear to fill either need. This makes the case for Guhle more difficult as he plays a position the Oilers seem to believe they have too many prospects for!

However, the Oilers might be better served to select Guhle if he’s on the board and see if they can trade him for a prospect further along in his development and with a scoring touch… This may be a more logical path of action for the Oilers even if they aren’t interested in Guhle. With a shortened WHL season expected to start in December, Guhle would have an opportunity to increase his value to trade partners. It seems the Oilers are consistently lacking in assets other teams want and they’re willing to trade, so Guhle might be valuable commodity.

Oilers draft choices have always been eclectic (excepting that one year the Hockey Gods blessed them with McDavid), so they may choose to select Guhle for other reasons if he’s on the board. Or ignore him for some forward no one saw coming.

It is the Oilers after all.