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2020 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #8 Kaiden Guhle – Habs Eyes on the Prize

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Kaiden Guhle would never have slid past the Montreal Canadiens’s 16th overall pick at the 2020 NHL Draft. The prospect is simply too great a match. He embodies the values of the organization, how they want their players to conduct themselves on and off the ice surface, and — like Marc Bergevin often says — plays a position where you can never have too much depth.

With Guhle’s pick, the Habs stacked their defence with players who could handle a large amount of minutes in the future. The defenceman played upwards of half the games with the Prince Albert Raiders last season and it’s a safe bet that, whenever the WHL restarts, his responsibilities will only increase, which will also help his production.

Elite Prospects

Guhle scored 40 points last season for the Raiders, a respectable total for a draft-year defenceman. As his physical development continues, the Junior game will only get easier and easier for him. Hopefully he expands his offensive capabilities and flirts with the league scoring lead for defencemen in the next couple of years.

Voting

Eight voters and the EOTP community placed Guhle in their top 10.

You could expect a high first-round pick to debut even higher on the board, but due to the amount of great young talents the organization amassed, the prospect plateaued at eighth. To climb past some of the exciting names ahead of him, Guhle will have to further prove himself.

I’m a little more optimistic when it comes to the 2020 first-rounder. His upside and the many pro-like elements of his game had me confidently sliding him up the list.

History of #8

Year #8
Year #8
2019 Artturi Lehkonen
2018 Nikita Scherbak
2017 Juulsen/Scherbak (T-7)
2016 Charles Hudon
2015 Sven Andrighetto
2014 Sven Andrighetto
2013 Sebastian Collberg
2012 Jarred Tinordi
2011 Yannick Weber
2010 Alexander Avtsin

Strengths

Guhle is one of the best skaters of the 2020 draft class. In time, his speed, acceleration, and agility will enable him to stop NHLers just like he stops Junior players, especially considering that his inescapable mobility is complemented by suffocating range.

The defenceman’s pure tools made him one of the better rush-defenders in Mitch Brown’s tracking project. Attackers seldom used his side of the ice to attack, and when they did, they quickly regretted it. He immediately swatted the puck away from their blades with long-range pokechecks or laid them to the ice with thunderous hits.

If the attackers managed to pick up a bit more speed against him, well they just delayed the inevitable; Guhle backed off a bit more, forming a wall at his blue-line, forcing them to dump the puck around him. In-zone, Guhle continues to bully. He plays the initiator role, jumping on puck-carriers and pinning them to the boards to allow one of his forwards to sweep in and take possession.

From Mitch Brown’s tracking project

His effectiveness doesn’t come only from brute force, but refined technique: shuffle-steps to match the attacker’s speed, angling techniques to close down space and passing lanes, and the use of pressure points to keep them glued to the walls. Guhle’s low and athletic position gives him leverage against opponents. He applies his weight to their hips and prevents any escape.

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Offensively, the defenceman scores by activating in two ways: off the rush for shots at the top of the circles and in the offensive zone for backdoor plays. In the recent Team Canada camp scrimmages, there was also more conscious effort on his part to sidestep defenders and improve the location of his shots. He picked up an assist by dragging the puck slightly to the middle before stepping wide to fire past an opponent. A forward picked up the rebound and put in an empty net.

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Weaknesses

I used to question Guhle’s stick-handling abilities, but after more viewings, the mechanics of it are relatively fine — at least NHL-average. He dribbles with the heel of his blade and rolls the puck with his top-hand (he doesn’t hack at it like many other defence-first blue-liners). His upper body is stable as he skates up-ice, so even if his shuffling movements aren’t as precise and quick as a Mattias Norlinder, the puck rarely springs off his blade when he executes difficult manoeuvres.

In other words, I have no doubt that Guhle can master the technical aspects of the offensive game. To start making use of his techniques and become at least a middle-of-the-pack offensive threat from the back-end, however, a couple of aspects of his game will need to be reinforced.

The first is awareness. Guhle simply doesn’t take in information at a high enough rate. When the puck moves to his side of the ice, he doesn’t know what lanes are open. As a result, he loses a precious second scanning the ice after getting possession, enough time for the opposing defence to move and counter his potential plays.

This is the biggest reason why Guhle resorts to so many uncontrolled plays: dumps, rims, and chip-outs. (Although Mitch Brown’s data above suggests that this problem may be overstated since the defenceman doesn’t make many controlled exits per 60 minutes, he attempts more controlled plays than uncontrolled ones. He also succeeds in making those controlled plays more often than not.)

The second element to improve is simply confidence. He was too skittish in the first two scrimmages with Team Canada. Of course, Guhle hadn’t played in a competitive game in nine months and he is one of the younger players at the camp. That being said, even considering those factors, he deferred to others too much, which affected the quality of his line’s possessions. He passed to teammates already under heavy forechecking pressure and forced them to dig pucks from the wall and come back defensively in a hurry after turnovers.

Guhle needs to expand his comfort zone, and for that he needs to try plays, even if it means a low success rate at first. Team Canada’s camp is maybe not the best setting for it as he is competing for a spot and trying to limit mistakes, but I hope to see him figure out the limits of his abilities when the WHL starts.

Once he becomes more aware and confident, new developmental paths will open up for him, like offensive manipulation, something he barely does currently.

Projection

Alexander Romanov, a defenceman whose standout attribute is an aggressive defensive game, is penciled in the top four of future Canadiens teams. Romanov may not bring much offence to the lineup, yet the organization and the fanbase alike value him as a key prospect regardless.

In his draft year, Romanov lacked the awareness and control that now make him the deadly shutdown presence that he is. His play with the puck? Very limited. The defenceman’s most common breakout tactic was rimming the disc blindly up the boards with the hope that one of his wingers stood ready to catch it. In the offensive zone, he simply smashed every pass on net with little forethought.

Sound familiar?

Guhle isn’t Romanov. He is actually a better prospect than Romanov was in his draft year, and maybe even in 2018-19.

Guhle skates with the same agility, but he is 6’3”. He plays the same physical brand of defence, but he is 25 pounds heavier, which will give him the leverage necessary to pin and drop many NHL forwards, too.

All in all, the disappointment over some of the prospects not selected by Montreal, notably Dawson Mercer, seems to have distorted the perception of Guhle for many.

Unfulfilled draft expectations shouldn’t weigh down the defenceman. He is a part of the organization now, has top-four potential, and a better chance of reaching that role than all of the other defensive prospects ranked on this list the day they were drafted by the Canadiens.

So don’t be surprised if Guhle makes Team Canada’s roster for the World Junior Championship in a defensive role, and then the following year leverages his above-average skating ability to develops into a puck-mover, earning a roster spot with Montreal in 2022.

Guhle has taught hard lessons to those who underestimate him. If you don’t closely monitor his progress, you might get stunned by how rapidly he emerges.

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Saints’ Drew Brees mum on future after playoff loss to Buccaneers – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone.

Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again.

Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance.

Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform.

For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract.

“I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I’m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said.

That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl.

This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round.

“I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me.

“There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.”

Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire.

As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.”

Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him.

“That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.”

Other teammates didn’t wait, though.

“He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.”

Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him.

“When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle.

“He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.”

Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43.

When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby.

“I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.”

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Drew Brees’ career possibly ends with more Saints playoff sorrow as Tom Brady and Bucs move on

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The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Brett Martel, The Associated Press

Source: – Yahoo Canada 

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FRIESEN: Injury to Laine just latest curveball for Jets – Winnipeg Sun

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Article content continued

“He couldn’t warm up right during practice,” Maurice said, shedding little light on the trouble. “I don’t even know if I’m going to list him as day-to-day, yet. We’ll get to tomorrow to see how he’s feeling.”

At least Laine was planning to get on the plane to Toronto.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman (centre) defends as Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk tips the puck past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg on Thursday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Tucker Poolman, Josh Morrissey’s partner on the first defence pair, wasn’t.

Poolman spent his second day on the COVID-alert list and won’t make the three-game trip out east, where the Jets face Ottawa on Tuesday and Thursday.

It was Poolman’s issue (flu-like symptoms, presumably, or perhaps a close contact) that caused the Jets to cancel Saturday’s practice.
Maurice says he didn’t have to cancel, that the Jets were just being extra careful. Better safe than sorry, especially these days.

If potentially having your scoring star out and your top defence pair halved isn’t enough, first-line winger Nik Ehlers didn’t practice on Sunday because he’s still dealing with symptoms that produced a negative COVID test which allowed him to play the first game against Calgary, Thursday.

Ehlers made the trip to Toronto.

Dylan DeMelo did not, and this is where the good news comes in.

One of the Winnipeg’s top defensive defencemen, DeMelo and his wife had a baby that kept him out of Thursday’s game.

The pandemic prevents the couple from getting any help, though, so dad is staying home to help with the new addition.

Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sun., Jan. 17, 2021. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network
Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sunday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Maurice says mom and baby are doing fine, so that’s a plus.

The Jets survived DeMelo’s absence just fine in Game 1. Compounding it with Poolman’s will add to the challenge.

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