Welcome to week 10 of our weekly series, Scouting Spotlight!
We recently changed up the Scouting Spotlight format to integrate it with the Emerald City Hockey Podcast, which can be found on our YouTube Channel. I’ll do a deeper dive on our pick in this article every Tuesday. Dylan and I will scout the player’s games over the course of the week and provide our thoughts and analysis on YouTube every Wednesday. Each Scouting Spotlight will now finish with a “Schedule Preview” which will look at the player’s schedule for the week and what his matchups look like.
This week, we’re highlighting Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas.
At 30 years old, Gudas is one of the more experienced players we’ve covered on Scouting Spotlight. He even has some Washington hockey ties, having played one WHL season with the Everett Silvertips as a 19-year-old.
Gudas is a throwback. He plays a style of game that’s becoming rarer in the NHL nowadays, but does it in a way that works in the modern game. What stands out first when looking at his stat line is his hit totals. Gudas ranks 2nd in the NHL in hits this season and you can see it immediately when you watch him play. What I love about Gudas is that he’s very much himself on the ice. You know exactly what you’re getting every single shift. He’ll use his body to separate forwards from the puck and provide a physical edge that can strike fear into opponents.
As I was watching him in the Panthers’ March 23rd game against the Blackhawks while preparing for this piece, I was scanning for video clip examples I could use to demonstrate his style of play. On his first shift after I tuned in, he lines up the Blackhawks’ Ryan Carpenter (#22) and delivers a solid bodycheck to separate him from the puck. While most modern defensemen would skate backwards and try to gently push the oncoming forward to the outside, Gudas plays these situations aggressively, seeking to deliver a hit and separate the man from the puck right away. Notice how as soon as Carpenter gets the puck, Gudas turns his body sideways and prepares to close the gap and make the check. He’s thinking hit all the way here.
Here’s another example of Gudas making a similar decision. As soon as the puck comes to Soderberg, Gudas approaches him and delivers a hit before Soderberg has time to make a play with the puck.
Even when he’s not delivering full-out bodychecks, Gudas still uses his body to take time and space away from opposing forwards before they can get comfortable with the puck. Here’s a clip from the same March 23rd game where Gudas adeptly puts his body between the opposing forward and the puck, causing a turnover.
The next shift, Gudas had a run-in with Mattias Janmark that highlighted another side of his game. Gudas has a known mean streak and a history of playing on the edge of the rules. Here, after a routine battle along the boards, Gudas shoves Janmark head-first into the dasher, a dangerous play.
Believe it or not, Gudas has actually reined in some of his more dangerous habits. While the Janmark clip shows that he hasn’t cleaned up his game entirely, Gudas has come a long way in figuring out when to attack and when to back off. As he’s aged, Gudas has become better at toeing the line between acceptable and unacceptable play. Still, having a player who plays on the edge of the rules could be beneficial for the Kraken. Like it or not, the reality is that you need guys like that to win a Stanley Cup.
As I continued to watch the game, the potential video clips just kept coming. Every shift, there was some example of Gudas using his physicality to separate a man from the puck. I could post 20 video clips here but all it would do is speak to his consistency. He really is as advertised. That said, he does have some elements of his game that could use improvement.
One area I would like to see Gudas improve upon is tying his man up in front of the net and committing to it. He has a tendency to get distracted by the puck and lose positioning in front of the net. Here’s an example. Gudas skates over to the player with the puck, leaving his man Soderberg (#34) unguarded in front of the net. While Gudas tries to get back, it’s too late and Soderberg has a tap-in goal.
Here, from the same game, Gudas, who has skated over to the puck carrier, again forgets about Soderberg (#34) in front of the net in a nearly identical spot. Soderberg misses what should have been another tap-in goal.
Despite the occasional puck-watching, the overall picture on Gudas is very positive. He’s 7th on the Panthers in Corsi relative and Fenwick relative despite starting in his own defensive zone 58% of the time. Generally speaking, he starts his shifts in the defensive zone, moves the puck forward, and finishes in the offensive zone. That’s exactly what you want from a 3rd pairing defenseman. Gudas has also grown into a veteran mentor for younger players. He’s spent a lot of time paired with 24-year-old Gustav Forsling, who has made big strides in his reliability and defensive habits this year. Gudas could play a similar role for a Kraken team that will surely have some young blueliners. Our Projected Kraken Roster predicts that five of the Kraken’s 10 defenseman will be aged 24 or younger. A player like Jake Bean or Jeremy Lauzon could benefit from playing 3rd pairing minutes alongside Gudas.
Schedule Preview: Tues. 3/30 vs. DET 4:00PM PT – Thurs. 4/1 vs. DET 4:00PM PTEmbed from Getty Images
This week, the Panthers will kick off a four game homestand with a pair of games against the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings rank 28th out of 31 teams in the NHL standings but do have a winning record (5-4-1) in their last 10 games.
The biggest storyline for the Panthers, though, is the loss of their captain Aaron Ekblad to a gruesome leg injury on Sunday that is expected to have him miss the remainder of the season. It’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers respond to losing their best defenseman. The defensive pairs will certainly need to altered, which could mean that Gudas and Forsling get broken up. The two games against the Red Wings will be an opportunity for Panthers coach Joel Quenneville to see which pairings work and figure out a solution for the rest of the season. Look for Gudas to see more ice time going forward with Ekblad out long-term.
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