Like most in Rochester, I was very excited for the highly anticipated arrival of Brendan Guhle. It was unquestionably worth the wait. Even in a loosing effort, Guhle was the best Amerk on the ice. It’s unbelievable to see such a high hockey IQ in a 19-year-old prospect. He was rewarded with the 2nd star of the game. I’m going to rate his performance an A-.
Offensively, Guhle was a revelation. Unlike Fedun, he was able to make an impact without skating the puck very often. Instead, he moved extremely well off the puck finding gaps and creating space for others. Early in the first after starting the breakout, he flew up the ice splitting the defense. A quick return pass from Vaive left him wide open in the slot, allowing him to coolly sneak a quick wrister past the goalie on the far post. Guhle also used his effortless speed to generate multiple odd man rushes without shirking his defensive responsibilities. He chose his moments to join the rush well, and was able to quickly recover if a stray pass was made. His decision-making was equally strong when choosing to pinch.
Defensively, Guhle played very well against a strong Hershey team. I was impressed with his commitment to eliminating passing lanes. Several times in the defensive zone, he kept his stick low to the ice and cut down angles so the only option was a short post shot that Johansson had covered. However, on the power play the quick passing of the Bears proved too much on one occasion. They whipped it around the zone so quickly that Guhle was caught flat-footed on a centering pass and they were able to get a tap in goal. There was one more time that Guhle was stuck on his heels late in a shift, but I attribute that to a massive amount of ice time and his willingness to get forward on the breakout. The only weakness in his game is a lack of physicality. He was so much quicker than everyone else on the ice that he was able to get away with poke checking to strip the puck. However, at the next level he won’t have the same advantage and will need to to be a more complete player.
Because Guhle has been so successful, it almost seems like an afterthought that he will start next year in Buffalo. I still think Brendan needs more time to show he’s strong enough to compete at the next level. He definitely has the speed and IQ to play in the NHL, but I would like to see him spend a half-season in Rochester getting used to playing the physical brand of hockey that will be required of him.