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2021 NHL Draft Class – Tier II – Dylan Guenther

June 21, 2021, 6:44 AM ET [611 Comments]
Hank Balling
Buffalo Sabres Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Dylan Guenther occupies a unique place in the top-10 prospect rankings because he is perhaps the most dynamic offensive threat from the forward position, but he is also a natural winger and not a center like Matty Beniers or a hybrid center/winger like William Eklund. A winger is largely seen by the hockey world as a less desirable commodity than a center or a defenseman for a lot of reasons, but really it seems superficial when considering the underlying play-driving numbers. If a winger drives play better than a comparable center then does the positionality really mean anything?

Perhaps partially because of that, the winger from the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL is almost assuredly not a number one overall pick but there is the recent juicy tidbit from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet in which Friedman said the Sabres are planning to pick up an additional top-10 selection from a potential Jack Eichel or Sam Reinhart trade. That rumor was also substantiated to some degree by Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News.

“I’m hearing the same as Elliotte: the Sabres are preparing for the possibility that they’ll own two picks in the top 10,” Lysowski tweeted.

So that’s why this series is still continuing. It would be seen as a reach of epic proportion if the Sabres took Guenther at 1 overall but there’s a pretty good chance that Kevyn Adams will absorb at least one more high pick from the potential departure of the disgruntled duo of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Is Dylan Guenther the guy at pick 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9? Let’s take a look and find out.

I’ve been watching Guenther highlights off-and-on for the better part of two weeks and I can say with near certainty that this player would be incredibly polarizing for the Sabres faithful. Do you want dazzling playmaking and natural goalscoring ability? You got it! Do you want turnovers to rival the Famous Jameis Turnover Bakery? You got it! (Pardon the cross-sport analogy there. That’s a reference to NFL quarterback Jameis Winston who is the only QB to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season). Guenther put up 12 goals and 12 assists in 12 games for the Oil Kings in a COVID-19 shortened season so that right there gives an indication of his offensive ability.

We’ll start with the positives which include an extremely heavy shot and uncanny playmaking ability. When you watch his goals, you’re not going to see any fluky plays where the puck just dribbles into the net after ricocheting around off the goalie and defenders. Guenther puts the puck where it needs to be with both velocity and accuracy. The velocity especially is very good as it doesn’t seem to matter if he’s using a wrist shot or a half-slapper; he always puts the puck on the net hard. The vision that Guenther possesses also allows him to slow the game down and find his teammates in the soft spots of the ice – especially on the powerplay.

Again, here’s the disclaimer that I am not an expert of any kind. But I have watched this guy a fair bit over the past few weeks and hoo, boy. I can see why this guy is viewed as an offensive dynamo. He has the shot and the playmaking vision to make a quality argument to be a top-5 selection in the NHL draft even if he is “only” a winger. Guenther established excellent chemistry with 2020 St. Louis Blues 1st round pick Jake Neighbours and I mostly bring that up because holy God, please watch the hit that Neighbours takes at :22 seconds in the video below.

This isn’t strictly Guenther-related but that hit is Umberger-esque. Anyway, back to it.

As was previously mentioned, Guenther has a proclivity toward giving the puck away at somewhat of an alarming rate. I highly encourage readers to check out the shift-by-shift highlights (link below) from the March 27 game between Guenther’s Oil Kings and the Calgary Hitmen. This game pretty much perfectly encapsulates the dual nature of Guenther with his goalscoring ability and also his turnover “prowess.”

After watching the game for the first six minutes, all I had noticed so far was how often Guenther had turned the puck over while trying to generate offense and I almost missed the goal he scored to put the Oil Kings up 1-0 while jotting down notes. This guy is always thinking offense first so you’re going to get some high-risk plays in the name of creativity and shot generation. It’s something that fans of whatever team he lands on will probably just have to learn to live with because you really don’t want to kill the offensive enthusiasm that makes him a possible top-10 selection. Sabres fans have seen what happens when you try to suppress natural, offensive instincts as Ralph Krueger attempted to mold Rasmus Dahlin into an unrecognizable shadow of himself.

Just deal with it. Guenther is going to create some awesome highlights and also some plays that make you shake your head and say “what in the world was that?” By the time you’re done thinking about an ill-advised pass he made, he probably will have generated another dazzling offensive opportunity. He’s often projected to go 8th overall which is where the Los Angeles Kings are drafting. There’s been plenty of speculation that the Kings are out on Jack Eichel, but we’ll really have to wait and see if any of that is true. Perhaps Sam Reinhart intrigues them instead and a deal can be made surrounding Reinhart for the pick.

Let’s see what the experts have to say about Guenther:

Ben Kerr (lastwordonsports.com):

Guenther is a threat both with and without the puck. He has good hands and can handle the puck and make plays while moving at top speed. He has very good vision and the passing skills to be a playmaker off the rush, or in the offensive zone. Quick movements of his feet and hands allow him to get past defenders off the rush as well as to create passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone. His ability to control the play also allows his teammates the time to get open. Once they do, he can find them with a pass through a tight area in order to set up a scoring chance.

Mathieu Sheridan (thehockeywriters.com):

He plays with an active stick and is good at being in position to start the breakout or receive a pass from his defensemen. He is not afraid to battle for the puck in the corners and does not shy away from physicality which is good to see. At times, he may tend to jump too early when the puck has not exited the zone but that is not something that should be worrisome.

Steve Kournianos (thedraftanalyst.com)

Guenther’s two-way game is a significant part of his overall skill set, but he has taken it to another level now that he has a thicker frame and is a year wiser. He is hyper-aggressive off the puck and will apply in-your-face pressure using an active stick, hard shoves, and rapid directional changes that allow him to harass either a mobile or static puck carrier. Guenther also is one of the more active penalty killers you’ll find within the 2003 age group, as he constantly pressures the points and finishes his checks along the half wall.

Shift-by-Shift Source Video:

https://youtu.be/Cqvun0TPAKw (this is the above-mentioned game vs the Hitmen)

Thanks for reading.
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