BUFFALO – The odds, of course, are still very low Brendan Guhle will stick around. In the coming days, the Sabres will likely send the defense prospect, the 51st pick in June, back to his junior club following an impressive training camp.
But Sabres coach Dan Bylsma left the door open just a crack for the 18-year-old.
“At least through one exhibition game and practice so far, he’s shown the ability that he could possibly do it, he could possibly play back there as a young kid,” Bylsma said this morning. “But we’re not going down that road right now with this evaluation of him.”
After debuting Monday in Minnesota, Guhle will play again in tonight’s preseason home opener against the Ottawa Senators inside the First Niagara Center. The rest of the lineup is completely new.
The Sabres gave the 6-foot-1, 186-pound Guhle his first game.
“For kind of a quiet, unassuming kid, he’s shown a lot of confidence in how he can play,” Bylsma said. “He’s shown a lot of compete against NHL players. He’s earned this game.”
What else has Guhle showcased?
“Confidence and poise has been the biggest thing he’s shown as a young kid playing a hard position,” Bylsma said. “Coming in as an 18-year-old, it’s not the easiest position to play, and he’s been able to do what he does well, and that’s skate and (play with) poise with the puck.”
Bylsma has only seen one defenseman, Pittsburgh’s Olli Maatta, force his way into the NHL as a teenager.
The Sabres are clearly high on Guhle. They signed him to a three-year, entry-level contract July 27, two days before his 18th birthday. Second-rounders usually don’t receive such a long commitment so early.
“A little surprised,” Guhle said. “I wasn’t really expecting it to happen that soon. I was thinking Christmas at the earliest if I was having a good first half.”
Guhle understands his stay could be short. He mentioned he has a game with his Western Hockey League team, the Prince Albert Raiders, on Friday.
The NHL experience, however, has been special. In Minnesota, Guhle played against Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, one of his favorite players.
“I couldn’t even believe I was playing against him,” he said. “It was crazy.”
In other news, Bylsma said defenseman Zach Bogosian (lower body) is day-to-day.
Update: The Sabres have sent forwards Giorgio Estephan and Vaclav Karabacek and defensemen Brycen Martin and Devante Stephens back to their junior clubs. The team has 56 players left in camp.
Here’s the rest of tonight’s lineup. Lines are left to right.
– Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Ennis
– Jamie McGinn, Sam Reinhart, Brian Gionta
– Evan Rodrigues, David Legwand, Jason Akeson,
– Jerry D’Amigo, Eric Cornel, Nick Baptiste
Guhle, Carlo Colaiacovo, Matt Donovan, Josh Gorges, Jerome Leduc, Chad Ruhwedel
Robin Lehner, Andrey Makarov