Did Guhle's 2023-24 season slow his development?

Kaiden Guhle is so poised and calm, it's easy to forget that he is only 22 years old.
Florida Panthers v Montreal Canadiens
Florida Panthers v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Kaiden Guhle is one of the cornerstones for the Montreal Canadiens defence and for that reason his deployment is heavily analyzed.

There is little debate how good that he is and that he has yet to reach his ultimate potential. But playing against the opposition's best each and every night, while still developing aspects of his game, can be a tall task. He did an admirable job on the top defence pairing with Mike Matheson and he is likely to return there.

It's not as though he had a poor season, not by any means, in fact he actually increased his goals, assists and point totals in his sophomore season. Guhle also had a healthier season, playing 70 games in 2023-2024, as opposed to his 44 games in 2022-23. He improved and there weren't any signs that he was out of position or playing above his talent level.

Guhle has shown in the IIHF World Championships that he has the skating and playmaking ability to be more involved in the offence than he was with the Habs this season. In Montreal, he had to be there more responsible defender on his pairing with Matheson, because he would activate from the blueline and pinch regularly. Without Guhle focusing so much on not making mistakes and taking more chances to create, he may produce more.

While Guhle may never lead the league in points for a defender, he has the defensive chops to stake his claim as a top pairing defenseman. He is the perfect definition of a new school defender; leveraging his great mobility and smart positioning to break up plays. He can devastate with his hitting and would stand to use it even more, but he opts to play a smart, simple style that is so effective.

I believe that Guhle grew in leaps and bounds this season from a defensive standpoint, he was challenged every night and learned a ton. But I do believe that he would be best suited playing on the second pair, with a player who better compliments his style. This would allow him to activate and use more of his offensive tools to gain confidence.

Guhle has some underrated passing skills and he has a heavy shot and using both more often would open up space for whoever he plays with. There is still plenty of time before he reaches his prime and the way he is going, his awareness is only going to improve as he grows and matures as a player. In Guhle, the Canadiens have an all-around defenseman who should be a staple on their blueline for a long time.