WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Team: Prince Albert Raiders
The Prince Albert Raiders impressed during the regular season and secured the last wild card spot in the playoffs where they would face off against the Scotty Munro winners in the Moose Jaw Warriors. They surprised many by taking the regular season champs to seven games where the underdogs fell just shy. With an impressive run behind them, the Raiders will look to return to the post season and are hoping that Kaiden Guhle, the first overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft will help them get there.
Kaiden is the younger brother of Buffalo Sabres prospect Brendan Guhle. They are very similar, yet very different. Both play defence, both are 6-foot-2, and both were selected by the Raiders in the top three picks of their respective drafts.
Unlike Brendan, Kaiden only played one year in the AMBHL where he scored 24 points (3G-21A) in 35 games. He then went over to the OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep in the CSSBHL where he served as captain, scoring 40 points (17G-23A) in 30 games, earning the honour of CSSBHL Top Defenceman.
When Guhle made the jump to Midget, he scored 39 points (14G-25A) in 35 games, adding a goal and an assist in three playoff appearances. His performances over the season once again saw him named the leagues top defenceman and the leagues Freshman of the Year.
“I thought it went pretty good,” Guhle said on his season. “From a team standpoint we improved a lot throughout the season and really started to gel as a team. From an individual standpoint I learned a lot and thought it went really well. My coaches were excellent and let me play my game and giving me the freedom to take chances and to make mistakes and helping me correct them. Overall it was great, and I am excited to make the next step.”
It was the freedom to play his game that allowed Guhle to excel. Winning the Top Defenceman award in both Bantam and Midget is no easy task, and the ability to score over 10 goals from the blue line each season is also impressive.
“I think I can credit my play to the hard work I have put in,” stated the Raiders Prospect. “My skating definitely helps my game, being able to skate quickly and smoothly and transition to offence and join the rush. That also takes hockey IQ, knowing when to rush and when to stay. It’s about reading the game, the forecheck, the opposing defenders. It’s all about the details in the moment.”
In addition to his impressive Midget season, Guhle also served as the assistant captain for Team Alberta at the WHL Cup, winning a silver medal after posting nine points (5G-4A) in five games.
“I am usually a quiet guy, I prefer to lead by example,” said Guhle on being named assistant captain. “The tournament itself was really fun. I got to reunite with some guys I hadn’t seen in a while and got to meet a lot of great guys and great players.”
With over a point per game in almost every league Guhle has played in, he got the chance to play against men in the WHL, some of whom were four years older than him.
“It was really good, and it was nice to get the feel of the speed and the pace of the WHL,” Guhle said on his stint in the WHL. “It really helped me understand the areas I need to work on over the summer and what it takes to make it in the WHL.”
“The speed and the pace of the WHL are two things you instantly notice coming from Midget. The players are a lot bigger in size and are a lot older and have more experience. The decisions you make have to be quicker and you have to be more accurate with everything you do.”
As all players have routines before a game, it’s important not to change it when playing your first game in a new league. Guhle says his routine is pretty standard for most players, and that he wouldn’t even think about changing things up unless he went on a cold streak.
“My equipment goes on in the same order every game, tape by stick before warm up and go for a stretch after warmups by myself to focus in and mentally prepare. I don’t do anything too crazy, and I won’t change it as long as it keeps working for me. I’m not to superstitious about it but if you’re not playing well I guess you would try anything.”
While Guhle hopes he won’t have to change up his routine, he does hope a change of scenery will come in August when he hopes to make the Raiders roster full time for the new season.
“I’ve been working on my pace and my speed,” stated the Raiders prospect. “Working on getting bigger and stronger to be able to win the one on one battles.”
With the Raiders looking to return to the post season, they are hoping Guhle can play a big part in helping them get their and go on a deep playoff run.
Guhle and the Raiders start their quest when the kickoff their preseason, hosting the Saskatoon Blades on Thursday August 30th at 7:00 PM CDT at the Art Houser Centre in Prince Albert, Sask.
What is your movie?
Anchorman, Will Ferrell is hilarious.
If you could have any super power what would you chose?
The ability to fly so I could get places quicker.
What is a hobby of yours that most people don’t know about?
I really like to play in-line hockey, I’ve been playing it since I was about 11, just because it’s so fast paced and high intensity.
Who was your favorite hockey player to watch growing up?
I’ve always liked to watch Erik Karlsson even when he first started to play in the NHL, I love the way he can jump up in the rush and put up points but still take care of the defensive zone.
What song could you sing start to finish with only your memory?
Happy Birthday, I never have been very good at remembering words so that is a safe bet.