Kaiden Guhle: meteoric rise explained

When Kaiden Guhle scored his first goal in prep camp on September 29, the young defenseman blinked as he ran to the Winnipeg Jets bench.

The Montreal Canadiens’ arrogant and overconfident pick for the 2020 first round mocked one person in particular: Brad Lauer.

The 55-year-old coach, who was hired by the Manitoba organization this summer, was Guhle’s 25-game head coach with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings last season.

Lauer then led the burly 20-year-old fullback on his road to the WHL Championship, where his protege was crowned playoff MVP with eight goals and 16 points in 19 games.

“It was exciting to see him score. We texted after the game and I said, “Congratulations on your goal happy‘ sarcastically laughed at Rick Bowness’ assistant during a recent interview with TVASports.ca.

“I wished him luck at camp. We will try to keep in touch. He’s a very special boy.”

Besides the fact that he has a good first pass and likes to dish out calculated shoulder hits, the energetic rookie has a goal that the Jets hockey veteran admires: “He wants to be a complete defender. He wants to be reliable defensively while using his creativity to support attack.

Photo credit: AFP

on a mission

Despite having to treat an injury in the off-season, Guhle was in radiant form at the Habs’ camp. He not only wanted to make a good impression, he wanted to be convincing in the eyes of the decision-makers.

It’s now time to decide for the Bleu Blanc Rouge and he hasn’t disappointed with three goals and several memorable appearances. For many hopefuls who want to pursue a career at a professional level, the work and the effort outweigh the costs.

In this sense, Guhle was able to turn a frustrating situation into a prime example of perseverance almost to the day a year ago. On July 11, 2021, the CH made him the last skater to be dropped from its camp before revealing its roster of 23 employees.

Image rights: Joël Lemay / Agency QMI

Instead of showing up to the Prince Albert Raiders – his junior club at the time – in high spirits, the 6’2″ 205 lbs defenseman was gearing up for a stellar season in the WHL. He was acquired by the Oil Kings on December 1 and amassed one point per game (25 in as many games).

“We’ve had discussions with Prince Albert to acquire him for some time,” Oil Kings general manager Kirt Hill told TVASports.ca. Kaiden showed no disappointment (about the cut) because he was their best player and he tried to do everything on the ice. He carried a weak team on his back. He was extremely competitive.

“I’m sure he was still disappointed. When it was traded here, we stocked up on ammo to win the championship. It turned him on. He then felt very motivated. He wanted to give it his all to show he was ready for a role in Montreal.

After winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup in six games against the Seattle Thunderbirds and a brief appearance in the Memorial Cup, Lauer and Hill faced their best players individually.

Image Credit: John Morris / QMI Agency

“We spoke to them about the next step. It’s not easy, so it’s important to gradually resume training,” says Lauer.

Hill offered more details on those year-end meetings: “We told them to step back. It’s not common to play until the end of June, and the boys should be attending NHL development camps at short notice.

“I advised them to take at least a week off before returning to training.”

“He wants to be the best”

For Lauer, a former forward who played 323 NHL games, Guhle’s performance in the WHL playoffs left no doubt. The young man already had the potential to break the Habs’ formation, and he said he would do anything to persist in that quest because “if he wants something, he’ll go and take it.”

“He thinks like a professional player and it showed in his behavior (in Edmonton),” he asserts. His training at the gym, the fact that he took care of his body and all the little details. He was very mature in youth.

Image Credit: John Morris / QMI Agency

“He’s an outstanding skater who plays with his gut. In the finals he identified the best players on the other side of the ice and he knew what he had to do. With his toughness he took them out of the game and challenged them, he was that competitive. He forced his opponents to fight to the end and it was impressive to see a guy like that.

Knowing what the plan might be that awaits his former student, Lauer was cautiously optimistic with a few days of big decisions. As a connoisseur of the individual, he is convinced that he was able to make the best of it, “that he wants to be the best every day”.

“He has raw talent and he’s progressed physically. There are tough choices in every organization and that’s what they want to see in camp…players forcing their hand. We have some here and it’s good for Kaiden to do it there.

“He will make some very difficult decisions because he wants to fight for a position at all costs and it will be a great achievement if he can do that.”

When you listen to Lauer talk about Guhle, there’s a certain pride. He gave him some advice over the summer and the imposing number 21 seems to have followed it to the letter.

“I said don’t waste opportunities, stay focused, keep your feet on the ground and be humble. Make sure you do whatever is necessary to break the formation. Nothing is ever given to you. Make a good impression on veterans and always be respectful.”

And for amateurs who find him serious in interviews, think again. According to its former CEO, Kaiden Guhle is all a character.

Photo credit: AFP

“He’s quite teasing. He’s having fun on the ice. He’s not afraid to make mistakes and he doesn’t hesitate to laugh at himself.”

The other facet of his personality in the dressing room is that of a (future) captain.

“Kaiden had no problem being loud in the bedroom,” Lauer informs. Sometimes it’s not easy when you’re young. It takes a certain maturity to speak up in the dressing room and those are qualities of a leader.

“Also, every time he changed benches, he wanted to jump onto the ice to get the puck. I had to discuss this with him so that he understood energy management.

Like on Long Island in 1986

Brad Lauer was previously in the boots of Kaiden Guhle. Drafted by the New York Islanders in the second round of the 1985 auction, he impressed the staff so much he landed a roster job.

Ironically, 36 years later, he believes it was the wrong decision.

“I was very fortunate to join an organization that had just won four Stanley Cups. They had aging players and I had a very good camp. The Isles gave me a place, but looking back at my development, I don’t think I was mature enough to play in the NHL.

“I probably wasn’t, but I wanted to. I made a good impression and it was a camp where everything seemed to be going well for me.

As so often at camp, Lauer’s happiness made another player unhappy. To make room for him, management had to get rid of a respected veteran in the dressing room.

The decision hour is near for the Bleu-blanc-rouge and one thing is certain he has not failed with three goals and several goals to remember. For all hopefuls who want to pursue a career at a professional level, work and perseverance are the main things.

“Some of the players from that time are in the Hall of Fame. When I won my spot, they relinquished Clark Gillies and the Buffalo Sabers claimed him (pictured below). The guard assigned me to his old locker after practice.

Credit: JOHN TAYLOR / Le Journal de Montreal

“I was sitting next to Denis Potvin, who was looking at me askance. He said to me, ‘Excuse me young man, I’ve seen the same face in this place for nine years and this is a new face.’

Lauer felt genuine discomfort sitting in Gillies’ old box and asked his trainer to find him somewhere else.

“They finally offered me a booth next to the GM’s (Bill Torrey) office. I couldn’t find her 5

funny… I spent the year there and Mr. Torrey was a big cigar smoker. Smoke kept coming out. It wasn’t like today!”

Mike Bossy: “phenomenal”

Finally, Lauer recalls observing in awe some Islander legends, including the late Mike Bossy.

“His presence… he was a confident person. It’s one of those ones you can’t help but watch, he admits.

Photo credit: Photo Les Archives Journal de Montréal

“The way Mike was doing things and throwing the puck from different angles was phenomenal. He didn’t have the strongest throw, but he was quick and accurate!

One of the last stints in Lauer’s NHL career was with the Ottawa Senators in 1993-94. He was then playing under his current boss, Jets head coach Rick Bowness.

“I have great respect for Rick. He brings energy and passion to the arena every day. I look forward to working for him.”

Darren Pena

Avid beer trailblazer. Friendly student. Tv geek. Coffee junkie. Total writer. Hipster-friendly internet practitioner. Pop culture fanatic.

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