Buffalo Sabres Brendan Guhle Is At Least A Year Away From NHL

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 03: Brendan Guhle
BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 03: Brendan Guhle /

One of Buffalo’s most promising prospects still has to prove he can beat up on more than just fellow prospects.

A year ago today, the Buffalo Sabres had a defense that appeared on paper to be one of the league’s worst.

As a result, many fans were wishing that defensive prospect Brendan Guhle would be given a spot on the Sabres roster, and complained when Guhle was sent back to the WHL after playing three games with the Sabres last December on an emergency basis.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when the Sabres announced that they were assigning Guhle and three other prospects to play for the Rochester Americans of the AHL. There might have been some surprise that the Sabres assigned Guhle to the AHL so quickly, but one would be hard-pressed to find any pundits that considered him to be a legitimate threat to crack the opening night roster.

Why are so many people quick to accept Guhle’s assignment to the AHL? Well, for starters: this is Jason Botterill’s way of doing things. Botterill believes that the success of an NHL team is not a top-down process; it is a bottom-up one, with the success of the farm teams playing a large role in determining the success of the NHL team.

It also doesn’t help Guhle’s cause that the Sabres went out and made some significant improvements to the blueline during the offseason. With the addition of Nathan Beaulieu, Viktor Antipin and Marco Scandella, the Sabres are now loaded* on defense. It is hard to make room for a kid with three whole NHL games to his credit when you have so many seasoned veterans on your roster.

*Loaded as in, numbers of players. Not sure how talented the defense will be just yet!

To top it all of, Guhle just is not ready to play at the NHL level. There is no doubt he has the potential to become a very solid defenseman in the league, as his performance at 2017 Sabres Prospect Challenge demonstrates:

Matthew Bove went so far as to write, “Brendan Guhle was the Sabres MVP during the Prospects Challenge and no one else was really close,” and it’s pretty hard to argue with him. Guhle closed the challenge with back-to-back multi-point games, proving that he can take it to other prospects . . . but when asked to perform at a similar level during a handful of preseason games this month, Guhle showed that he is not ready to skate with the big boys full-time just yet. As a matter of fact, his final preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs is best summed up courtesy of this Tweet:

Actually, that Wilson Tweet might be too kind. Maybe this one is better:

That Tweet might sound a bit harsh – but it’s true. Guhle looks great when compared to young players competing for bottom-six (or bottom-four) roster spots, but he still has a lot of work to do before the Buffalo Sabres add him to the roster – which is fine. Kid is only 20, after all.

So Guhle is headed to the AHL, where he should spend a lot of time paired with Casey Nelson as the Amerks’ top defensive pairing.  Despite what everyone’s “favorite” blogger, Garth at HockeyBuzz, had to say, the Sabres will not be trading Josh Gorges in order to make room for Guhle after 20-25 games; instead Guhle should spend the majority of the season playing with the Amerks (give or take a few call ups due to injuries).

Logging major minutes against the bigger, faster competition at the AHL is the logical next step in Guhle’s progression as a player, because let’s face it: he just isn’t ready for the NHL yet. The good news is that the Buffalo Sabres did him a favor by strengthening their defense during the offseason, so instead of having to flounder in the big leagues, Guhle can (hopefully) enjoy success in Rochester and try out for roster spot in 2018.