Monday, January 15, 2018

What to do with Brendan Guhle after the Sabres return from their bye week

Published by, 1-13-2018

Prospect Brendan Guhle has played two games for the Buffalo Sabres this season and, similar to his three-game call-up from junior last season, hasn't looked out of place at all. Granted, the five game sample is too small to designate him a top-four defenseman for the Sabres, but he has the look of a future NHL'er and with the way he skates and attacks with speed leads one to believe that he could/should end up in a top-four role sooner rather than later.

The 6'2" 196 lb. Guhle was plucked in the second round (51st-overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft by Buffalo and was touted as an very athletic skater known more for being defensive-minded. Kris Baker of described Guhle as "a gym rat" in his profile writing that the Sherwood Park, Alberta native is "not flashy, gets the job done and takes care of his own zone first." Baker added, "He has great feet. His feet keep him in plays and he's got really good recovery speed so when he does go deep, he can get back."

His skating and his recovery speed are traitts that hat served him well throughout his journey thus far. The 20 yr. old is in his first pro season and some of those traits mentioned by Baker remain true. "It was great the way he stepped out from behind our own net and just attacked the game," said Sabres head coach Phil Housley on WGR550 Radio the morning following Guhle's first game of the season in Buffalo."I liked the way he jumped in, got down low and had guys covering for him, but even when he got caught down low he could use his speed to get back and recover. That's a great aspect of his game."

With defenseman Zach Bogosian out at least 4-6 weeks and forward Jacob Josefson on IR with a lower body injury, there's room for a roster player. Right now the Sabres have six healthy defensemen--Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Jake McCabe, Nathan Beaulieu, Justin Falk and Josh Gorges. Rookie Victor Antipin may or may not return to the lineup after being felled by a wicked bout with the flu. Antipin last played against the Boston Bruins on December 19, part of it was being a healthy scratch with the last six games sidelining him because of the flu. He was said to have "lost a noticeable amount of weight," according to John Vogl of The Buffalo News, and will be using Buffalo's bye-week to gain weight and strength while trying to get back into game-shape.

As of right now there is room for at least one of Guhle or Antipin, and possibly both, in the lineup dependent upon what Housley, and GM Jason Botterill, want to see moving forward. Botterill was on WGR before the Sabres game on Thursday saying that they will evaluate the situation with Guhle and goalie Linus Ullmark, after their bye.

Most rightfully think that Guhle should go back to a winning Rochester club to avoid the negativity and turmoil surrounding the Sabres dismal season to this point. He can also continue playing top-pairing minutes for the Amerks and be a main cog in the wheel as they make a drive to a high seed in the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs.

But a case can also be made for Guhle to get the call to Buffalo for a stay, possibly an extended stay, for as long as his development warrants. That would include keeping him in Buffalo until the Sabres season ends on April 7 and God knows the team and the fans in Buffalo could use a breath of fresh air.

Guhle has made great strides in Rochester as a rookie. He's tied for sixth on the team in scoring with 20 points (7+13) in 35 games while his 91 shots on goal lead the team as well as all rookie d-men in the AHL. Those 20 points also tie him for second in the AHL amongst rookie defensemen. He has a +4 plus/minus rating and he seems to have a full and complete grasp of the AHL.

As a team, the Amerks have made great strides this season after finishing 26th in the league the prior two seasons (plus a 28th-place finish the year before.) After their win last night, Rochester remains second in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the league with a 23-8-7 record. Botterill was true to his word when he said he wanted a strong AHL affiliate and stacked the Amerks with quality vets to help guide the youngins and even without Guhle, Rochester has a solid group of defensemen, bolstered by the recent return of Nathan Paetsch three games ago. They're also backed by Ullmark, one of the best goalies in the American Hockey League. This is a team that's almost certain to make the playoffs and are poised for a good run.

Should Botterill and company decided to keep Guhle in Buffalo for an extended stay that stretches into April, he'd still have plenty of time to get ready for the playoffs. Rochester has three games the week after Buffalo's season ends on April 7.

After Thursday night's Sabres win, Guhle and Ullmark were both sent down to Rochester yesterday and did not play in the Amerks 5-2 win vs. the Binghamton Devils (NJD.) Both should be in the lineup tonight as Rochester faces a red-hot Syracuse Crunch (TBL) team that has won seven in a row and 18 of their last 21. After that the Amerks play the Utica Comets (VAN) in a home and home Monday and Wednesday.

The Sabres are on their bye week until they return to action on Thursday when they travel to The Big Apple to face off against the NY Rangers. Whether Guhle is with them or not will be determined but for this fan, it would be great to get another look at him in the Blue and Gold. And should he continue to impress, an even longer look at that.

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