Fargo Force forward Gabe Guertler, a native of Plantation, Florida, represents a new generation of hockey players coming from non-traditional areas like Florida. In 2010, Andrew Yogan became the highest drafted Floridian ever when he was selected 100th overall by the New York Rangers. Two years later, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere set the record again when he was selected 78th overall by Philadelphia. Guertler has an outside shot of raising that bar even higher for prospects from Florida later this month if he is selected in the first three rounds of the draft.
Guertler grew up playing his youth hockey in Florida for programs like the Florida Jr. Panthers. In an effort to gain a little more exposure and play better competition, he moved to Chicago for his Midget Minor season where he played with Team Illinois alongside probable first-round draft pick JT Compher. His stellar play that year helped him become the second overall pick in the USHL Futures Draft to the Fargo Force, where he has played for the past two years. He is scheduled to begin his college career next fall at the University of Minnesota, and should step in as a regular in their lineup from day one.
Guertler has largely been overlooked as a serious NHL Draft prospect because of a lack of size. He's listed at 5-9 178 lbs., but plays a style of game where that lack of size shouldn't hinder him too much. He's got a thick build, and is a strong skater with an incredible sense of balance which allows him to take on physical contact and still makes plays. Guertler can also play with a nasty physical edge, which allows him to dish out as much punishment as he takes.
In his second year in the USHL, Guertler showed he could be more than just a good skater, developing into one of the better goal-scorers in the league. He finished the year with 31 goals and 20 assists for 51 points in 60 regular season games. His 31 goals was good for 9th overall in the league, and second behind only Taylor Cammarata among first-time draft eligibles in the USHL this year.
Opinions on Guertler's pro potential are likely to be all over the board. NHL Central Scouting wasn't very high on Guertler, sticking him in the third-to-last spot on their final rankings. Central Scouting tends to lean away from smaller prospects, especially those that don't set the world on fire with scoring, perhaps rightfully. Guertler is a bit different from your average 5'9" player though. He plays a lot bigger than numerous players ranked ahead of him with the coveted 6'+ height. Even if he doesn't develop into a big-time scorer at the pro level, he could still be a very solid contributor at the pro level, bringing speed and a tough physical edge that could create match-up problems on a second or third line.
That makes it tough to peg where Guertler will go in the draft. It seems likely that many teams will follow Central Scouting's lead and have Guertler off their list entirely. But the old adage of it only taking one team to really like a player for him to be drafted may come into play here. The first two rounds probably aren't realistic, but anything after that might be a slight stretch, but that not that bad of a gamble for a team to draft him.