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Brendan Guhle set to expand role with Sabres

Expectations high for young defenseman after injury derailed last season

by Joe Yerdon / Correspondent

BUFFALO -- Defenseman Brendan Guhle had a different experience at Buffalo Sabres development camp this time around, now that he's a prospect people are watching closely.

Guhle, 18, arrived at Sabres training camp last season after being selected by Buffalo in the second round (No. 51) of the 2015 NHL Draft. Second-round picks generally are not expected to make the NHL right away, but Guhle did not follow that script. He not only went far in training camp, he opened the season on the Sabres roster.  

But Guhle sustained an upper-body injury during a preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs after he was hit by defenseman Dion Phaneuf, derailing his chances to play in the NHL last season. After his second development camp in Buffalo this summer, he understands the expectations are a bit higher.

"I was just going to come and take it one game at a time, one skate at a time, one workout at a time, and I think I did that," Guhle said. "I think I improved throughout the camp. I'm happy with my camp."

Guhle showed his speed and creativity when he set up 2016 seventh-round pick, forward Vasily Glotov, on two goals during the Sabres 3-on-3 tournament last week. Guhle also was used as a forward occasionally during the Blue-Gold scrimmage Saturday, which only accented the strengths in his game.

Video: Brendan Guhle speaks with the media after practice

"So I thought Brendan, a few times, skated extremely well," coach Dan Lambert of Rochester of the American Hockey League said. "I mean, that's his game. He's a skater. Like every young player, he needs to improve in some areas: strength, and his puck management, his ability to make plays in traffic. But he skated a few times that I noticed. He went wide, and because of the way he skates, you do notice that."

Last season, after Guhle recovered from his upper-body injury, he returned to Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League and had 10 goals and 18 assists in 63 games, four fewer points than he had in 2014-15, in nine fewer games. After the Raiders were eliminated from the WHL playoffs, Guhle was called up to Rochester and had a goal and three assists in six games. Guhle may be the Sabres' best defenseman prospect after Jake McCabe played in Buffalo all last season.  

"Well, I don't know if I saw a marked improvement [at development camp] because last year he was quite good and obviously he played some games here," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. "So I think you see more consistency, so that is an improvement, but he's a talented guy.

"He's an athletic, talented guy that can skate and has some skills. Expectations are high so, you know, it's hard to say I saw a huge improvement, but he's getting better in his game that he prepares properly, things you might not see on the ice. So I expect that he's going to come in here and make a push like he did last year, for sure."

With that kind of recognition from Sabres brass, Guhle understands what parts of his game need more work if he's going to find a way to be on the opening roster again to start this season.

"I definitely feel a lot stronger," he said. "I'm a lot more powerful with my skating as well. I was able to play the body well and that's one thing that I need to work on and I need to show I made progress there. Last year, my biggest thing was physical strength, and I definitely wanted to show that I was more capable of doing that now."

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