For the Buffalo Sabres, the 2015 NHL draft was all about Jack Eichel. Knowing they had the second pick in the bag and were guaranteed the NCAA standout made every other pick seem almost nonexistent by comparison. They walked away with a franchise changing player in Jack Eichel, so it’s easy to overlook other players that were selected.
However, fans shouldn’t sleep on their second pick in the draft, defenseman Brendan Guhle.
The Sabres first pick in the second round was one that came out of left field and surprised many. With numerous talented forwards left on the board, they selected a defenseman out of the WHL. The pick seemed to be a major stretch for a defender who needed a lot of work before making the jump to the NHL. Just a few momths later, Guhle is turning heads.
He is one of the few junior-eligible players getting big minutes in camp, and the Sabres are taking a hard look at him.
He’s shown confidence against bigger, stronger and older NHL prospects which has earned him the attention of head coach Dan Bylsma. From The Buffalo News: “At least through one exhibition game and practice so far, he’s shown the ability that he could possibly do it, he could possibly play back there as a young kid.”
What really stands out is his confidence and poise with the puck. He’s just 18 years-old, but is not afraid to showcase his speed and offensive contributions. He is showing the skills and tools of a player who knocking on the door of the NHL. After only two seasons in the WHL, that’s impressive.
At 6’2″, the offensive defenseman has the size needed to compete in the NHL and become a top-four guy in the future. His defensive awareness still needs some work, but Guhle has put his best foot forward at camp.
It’s telling when an organization signs a second-round pick to a three-year entry level deal before they even turn 18. The Sabres know they have found a gem in Guhle, and his performance at camp only back-ups their decision to draft him.
Stepping into the NHL as a defenceman at the tender age of 18 is one of the toughest things to do in the sport. You see far more forwards make the jump at that age then blueliners. However, the Sabres don’t have the option of sending Guhle down to Rochester to develop against stiffer competition. Should they decide Guhle is not ready, he’ll be sent back to the WHL to improve on his 32-point season for a third year of junior play.
He’s been one of the most impressive kids at camp and looked solid while paired with Mark Pysysk. The two seemed to compliment each other on the ice and both had a great showing in their exhibition together.
While Guhle’s skill has been enough to earn him ice time and attention from Bylsma, he’s in against some pretty tough competition. There is a tough battle for spots on the Sabres back end and there doesn’t appear to be enough room for Guhle.
Realistically, Guhle is about two years away from full-time play with the Sabres, but fans shouldn’t overlook him. He has the tools and the skills to become a valuable member of the top four moving forward and he and Pysyk could be a dynamic pairing.
He won’t crack the roster this year, but if there is a player who has carved out a spot for himself on the Sabres roster, it’s defenseman Guhle. The future is bright for the Sabres blueline with him in the pipeline.