ROCHESTER – As soon as Brendan Guhle started skating, Amerks coach Dan Lambert was in love. He also recognized the movement.
“To compare him to an NHLer, I certainly have somebody in mind that I think he can become,” Lambert said Monday. “It wouldn’t be fair to put that name to him right now.”
If Lambert doesn’t want to put undue pressure on Guhle, the name clearly isn’t Andy Delmore or Timo Helbling. It’s someone who’s made an impact.
Buffalo hopes Guhle can be that player sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know what their plans are, but we’ll find out next year,” Guhle said in Blue Cross Arena. “They’re not going to give me a spot, so I’ve got to earn it.”
The 19-year-old won't be handed a spot with the Sabres, but it’s safe to say he’s penciled in for one. Buffalo needs smooth-skating, puck-moving defensemen. Guhle fits that description.
In fact, that was Tim Kennedy’s exact description. The Buffalo-born center plays with Guhle in a summer league, and Kennedy finished this season with the defenseman in Rochester. Guhle joined the Amerks after his junior career ended, recording a goal and assist in six games.
“He’s a very talented young kid,” Kennedy said as the Amerks cleaned out their lockers. “He skates really well, good shot, good patience with the puck. I think he’ll be a really great player.”
Buffalo got a glimpse of Guhle in December. He played three games as an emergency callup, and many wished the emergency lasted longer.
“He played very well for us,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said. “You can’t get too excited because short term can fool you, but I don’t think he’s fooling anybody. He’s a tremendous skater. He’s got skill.
“He is what we need. We need our D to get up in the play and become that second wave of attack that we didn’t have much of this year.”
Guhle put up good offensive numbers in the Western Hockey League, totaling 15 goals and 39 points in 53 games. A midseason trade made the year memorable, but the call to Buffalo made it unforgettable.
“Playing my first three games, that was definitely the highlight of the year,” Guhle said. “It was good to be able to get a little experience up there and get kind of familiar with the league. Playing those few games, that was exciting and helped prepare me for next year.”
The second-round pick from the 2015 NHL Draft was glad to get another taste of professional life with the Amerks. He also joined Rochester for six games last spring, recording a goal and four points. This year was more intense because the Amerks played six games in nine days.
Fatigue set in, but Lambert remained impressed.
“His ability to skate, his ability to defend, his awareness defensively is very good,” Rochester’s coach said. “He played well.”
There are, of course, things for the prospect to improve. He needs to close on opponents quicker, not give them time to make plays or find space.
“He has the ability because of his skating ability, so those are things he’s going to get better at with experience,” Lambert said.
Guhle’s main goal this summer is to get stronger. After experiencing how the NHL game is played, the 6-foot-2 defender will try to add to his 189-pound frame.
“I have to be bigger and stronger if I want to be better at this level,” said Guhle, whose quick taste of Buffalo increased his hunger. “It’s just getting one step closer to playing in the NHL, and I’m excited about that.
"It could be next year. It could be the year after. Who knows, but I’m just going to take it one day at a time and try and play my best.”