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NHL Mock Draft 2020: Columbus Blue Jackets select Kaiden Guhle with No. 21 pick

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Plus, a discussion of what kind of player the Jackets should target

Prince Albert Raiders v Seattle Thunderbirds Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

To announce the 21st pick of the 2020 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, please welcome to the stage acclaimed actor Adam Driver:

Well, Adam, it’s actually pronounced “GOO-lee” but anyway, the Columbus Blue Jackets select Kaiden Guhle, defenseman, from the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL.

See below for our profile of the player, but first I wanted to take the time to walk through the the process for making this pick.

MrSwift wanted to take the best forward available. Will and I were focused on a center specifically. Elaine pointed out the lack of defensive prospects in the pipeline.

Since I don’t follow prospects during the season, I turned to The Cannon founder and manager emeritus Mike MacLean, who does follow junior hockey from his perch in Halifax. When I reached out, the following picks had been made:

1. NYR – Alexis Lafreniere
2. LAK – Quinton Byfield
3. OTT (from SJS) – Lucas Raymond
4. DET – Tim Stützle
5. OTT - Marco Rossi
6. ANA - Jamie Drysdale
7. NJD - Cole Perfetti
8. BUF - Anton Lundell
9. MIN - Alexander Holtz
10. WPG – Seth Jarvis
11. NSH – Dawson Mercer
12. FLA – Jack Quinn
13. CAR (from TOR) - Yaroslav Askarov
14. EDM - Jake Sanderson
15. TOR (from PIT) - William Wallinder

Here’s what Mike had to say:

Given what’s happened so far with the mock, here are some thoughts:

teams DO take positional needs into account, and in the case of the Jackets this year, going with a Dman makes the most sense. The pipeline needs an infusion of high-end talent as most of the top young defenders in the organization are already on the roster or knocking on the door. Drysdale and Sanderson are the top two Dmen, with a group of three serving as the next tier - Braden Schneider, William Wallinder and Kaiden Guhle. I was a bit surprised to see the Leafs take Wally where they did - so Schneider and Guhle remain the top options. If either of those two are available when you pick, I’d go with Guhle first, then Schneider. That said, I doubt they’re still there with the Habs, Blackhawks, Devils x2, and Calgary picking before you.

If they are available, Schneider is a good choice because he’s a good skater, and offers the mobility teams covet. He’s safe and steady. However, Guhle offers the same skill set but a bit more offensively and is a shade bigger.

If those two are taken, I’d lean toward taking a centre. The group you’d be looking at is Connor Zary, Hendrix Lapierre, Mavrik Bourque and Jacob Perreault.

Zary is the best of the rest, but he’s likely scooped up before you pick. If not, take him and run.

Lapierre / Bourque / Perreault : Lapierre is extremely boom or bust, as he’s dealt with injuries. If not for that, he’d be a top-10 pick. If you feel like gambling and he’s there, take him. Bourque is a smaller guy, but his offensive skill is unquestioned. Perreault has NHL bloodlines but needs to work on his defensive game.

As far as wingers go, there’s a few I like. Noel Gunler, Dylan Holloway, Jan Mysak and the Germans JJ Peterka and Lukas Reichel. I see Rodion Amirov quite high on a lot of lists but I don’t know much about him.

Gunler has a good combo of size and sniping ability. For some reason he doesn’t feature on the Swedish national teams though. Holloway was one of the youngest NCAA players, with Wisconsin. Turcotte and Caufield got top billing with the Badgers but Holloway held his own. He’s well-rounded. Mysak is a prospect I adore - his skating is a bit ugly but the dude can score. Peterka and Reichel both offer high-end deliverables.

In terms of a list, understanding that there are five picks before yours, here’s where I’m at:

Guhle
Schneider
Zary
Mysak
Gunler
Lapierre
Bourque
Holloway
Perreault
Peterka
Reichel
Amirov

I hope this was helpful! In terms of the real draft, if we could grab Wallinder, Guhle or Schneider we’d be in great shape.

The remaining picks were:

16. MTL - Mavrik Bourque
17. CHI - Connor Zary
18. NJD (from ARI) - Rodion Amirov
19. CGY - Jeremie Porier
20. NJD (from VAN-TBL) - Jacob Perreault

While I think the biggest immediate need for the Jackets is on offense, I also know that few if any of these prospect outside of the top 10 are likely to make the team this season. This pick is someone to join the team in two years. At that point, both Zach Werenski and Seth Jones will be due for new contracts (though I think both will re-sign). Ryan Murray and David Savard are free agents next off-season. Markus Nutivaara could be selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. Andrew Peeke, Tim Berni and Eric Hjorth seem promising as prospects, but they’re far from certain to be NHL regulars.

With the way this is team is built, it’s important the blue line remain a strength, with depth on all three pairs. That depth also gives the team valuable trade chips to upgrade at other positions.

Finally, every forward prospect that we’ve profiled has had a range of scouting reports, from high teens to the second round. They each have a glaring flaw to go with one elite aspect to their game. These defensemen seem like safer bets, even if the ceiling is not as high. With this being just the second first round pick in the last four years, and the only pick this year in the first three rounds, it’s important that it pays dividends for the Jackets in a few years.

What do you think? If you disagree with the pick, make the case in the comments for who you would take instead, of the players available.

Poll

What do you think of the Blue Jackets selecting Kaiden Guhle at #21?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Love the pick
    (26 votes)
  • 0%
    I’d rather take a different defenseman
    (0 votes)
  • 19%
    No, we need a center
    (14 votes)
  • 43%
    No, we need the best forward available
    (31 votes)
71 votes total Vote Now

Now, let’s take a closer look at this player:

Kaiden Guhle Profile

Position: Defenseman
Team: Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Date of Birth: January 18, 2002
Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 186
Shoots: Left

Rankings

Ranked #21 by ELITEPROSPECTS.COM
Ranked #25 by FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS
Ranked #14 by ISS HOCKEY
Ranked #24 by TSN/CRAIG BUTTON
Ranked #14 by MCKEEN’S HOCKEY
Ranked #8 by NHL CENTRAL SCOUTING (NA Skaters)
Ranked #18 by CONSOLIDATED RANKING
Ranked #14 by TSN/McKenzie

2019-20 Stats

Games Played: 64
Goals: 11
Assists: 29
Points: 40
PIM: 56
+/-: +23

Scouting Reports

AN EXCELLENT SKATER WITH QUICK ACCELERATION WHO IS MOBILE AND ELUSIVE WHEN DEFENDING. CAN BE VERY PHYSICAL WITH BIG OPEN ICE HITS. LIKES TO JOIN THE PLAY FOR ODD MAN RUSHES. THE GO-TO GUY ON THE BLUELINE FOR HIS TEAM. POSSESSES A SOLID ONE-TIME SHOT. CURRENT PLAYER COMPARABLE: CAM FOWLER - NHL Central Scouting

Guhle is an absolute menace when he’s on. He’s constantly moving his feet and closes with such speed and force that he regularly dispossesses his opponent of the puck right at the defensive blue line. Guhle creates by activating off the rush or joining the second-wave of the attack. That’s where his strengths lie. - Elite Prospects

He’s one of the smoothest-skating defencemen in the class and he pushes opposing players around along the wall (and occasionally the rush). Concerns about his skill level continue to keep him just outside my top 31 (he has a heavy shot but he’s not a playmaker and his handling still needs a bit of work when he’s working in small areas) but Guhle will be a first-rounder and I wouldn’t fault a team for taking him in the early 20s. While I don’t see power play upside, his defensive game is already pretty refined. Guhle’s skating is going to be an asset at the NHL level too – he can probably stand to get even stronger without sacrificing it – and if he can build upon a decent but unspectacular foundation offensively, he could become a second-pairing guy.

“If you look at the guys who are NHL ready in this draft, I would say he’s top five. Because physically he’s already there,” one source said of Guhle. - Scott Wheeler, The Athletic

Highlights