Good and bad of newest Greyhound

July 20, 2014

He has a history that is both good and not-so-good.

First the good news.

Gabe Guertler, a 5-foot-9, 185 pound, 1995 birth-year centre, can put the puck in the net.

As a 15-year old, he scored 25 goals in 35 games for Team Illinois, a Tier 1 elite, major midget team.

As a 17-year old, he lit up the United States Hockey League with 37 goals in 73 games — playoffs included — for the Fargo Force.

Of note, the USHL is the USA Hockey equivalent of the Ontario Hockey League, Western Hockey League and Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League.

How good is Guertler?

Good enough to be a top recruit of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers — who boast one of the best Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association programs in the USA — and play for them as an 18-year in 2013-2014.

Now the bad news.

Guertler missed the first month of the 2013-2014 season after being suspended by the Golden Gophers for an off-ice incident that led to his arrest by University of Minnesota police for driving a moped while intoxicated.

Guertler was eventually reinstated by the Golden Gophers and went on to play in 24 games, scoring 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points while playing on the fourth line with two other freshman.

Just last week, Guertler asked for — and was granted — his release by the Golden Gophers and quickly signed an OHL card with the Soo Greyhounds, who had selected him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft.

Greyhound general manager Kyle Dubas — who has a reputation for being as thorough a GM as there is in the OHL — said he did his homework on Guertler, beginning with the youngster’s arrest for driving while impaired.

“My understanding of the incident is that following a team party at the beginning of last season Gabe was stopped for driving a moped on the sidewalk of campus,” Dubas told me, when asked about the DWI arrest.

“Gabe has expressed deep regret about the error in judgement to me and it is clear to me that he has learned from any error that was made,” Dubas added.

So, let’s give Guertler the benefit of the doubt. The kid made a mistake and it was dealt with.

And let’s hope that Guertler has learned from his “error in judgement” because those who I have talked to about the speedy centre have no doubt that the Plantation, Florida product can be an impact player for the Greyhounds.

Dubas has little doubt, either, saying it is with “great excitement” on his part that Guertler has become a Greyhound.

“Adding a player of Gabe’s caliber to our team at this stage is another very positive step in the evolution of our program,” Dubas added.

Dubas, to be sure, is not scared off by past reputations.

Afterall, it was Dubas who took a chance on bringing in Sheldon Keefe as coach midway through the 2012-2013 season when when the former Barrie Colts scoring star and reputed bad boy was persona non grata with every other OHL team.

Like him or not, care for his cocky ways or not, Keefe has been an impact OHL coach in less than two full seasons as Greyhound bench boss.

In 2013-2014, his first full season as an OHL coach, Keefe piloted the Greyhounds to a 44-17-7 regular-season record, good for 95 points and a .699 winning percentage.

The Hounds 2013-2014 record under Keefe is the team’s best showing since the 2007-2008 season when Craig Hartsburg was calling the shots.

Hartsburg recently signed a multi-year contract extension as the highly-regarded associate coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League.

Columbus is fresh from a franchise-best, 43 regular-seasons wins in 2013-2014.

As for Guertler, he is looking forward to a fresh start.

“I’m really excited to be a part of the Soo program,” said Guertler. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to get better as a player. I look forward to getting started.”

PHOTO: Gabe Guertler scored 37 goals as a 17-year old with the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League.

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