It's extremely rare that a 2nd round pick makes his NHL debut right off the bat. Ryan O'Reilly made the opening night roster for the Avalanche in 2009, becoming the youngest player to ever play for Colorado. There are few other cases of this happening. Brendan Guhle has the opportunity to do it this season.
As of right now the Sabres have four injured defenseman, as well as another in Ristolainen who is just returning from injury. Zach Bogosian is considered week to week, as is Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe is dealing with a minor upper body injury, and Chad Ruhwedel is day to day with a lower body injury. If none of them are available for opening night, this is what the defense could look like:
To this point with all the injuries, Guhle basically only has Matt Donovan to beat out to make the roster. With the way he's played with Mark Pysyk, Guhle looks likely to get a shot. As we know with Sam Reinhart and Mikhail Grigorenko, a rookie has 9 games to play in before a year of his contract is burned. The 10th game of the season is October 29th, so the Sabres would undoubtedly have all of their defensemen back from their current injuries. At that point it would be easy to send Guhle down, and thank him for his service in the first handful of games. Unless he's amazing.
With Guhle being maybe the best athlete in last years draft, he may have the ability to play in the NHL right away at a decent level. He would have to make an immediate impact for Tim Murray to use a year of his contract already. Add in that Guhle is a left handed defenseman, which the Sabres are very thin at.
Many from the media believe Guhle has a chance to start the season in Buffalo. While Guhle deserves credit for outperforming expectations at training camp, the real reason he would get a shot is how injury prone the Sabres back end is. Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges have missed a combined 56 games last season, and have played just one full season between the two since 2010. Thats a big reason why the Sabres stocked up on defensive depth. It's of course not a good sign both are already injured.
If Guhle plays in the NHL, my biggest worry for him is if he'll be able to play along the boards and remove forwards from the front of his net. At just 184 pounds he is the lightest Sabre defenseman by a margin of 16 pounds. While he is very strong and proved that at the NHL Combine, he is the farthest thing from intimidating to an opposing forward. Also, while he's established chemistry with Mark Pysyk, Pysyk is still a very young defenseman himself and shouldn't have to worry about helping out his 18 year old partner.
With the Prince Albert Raiders last season Guhle had 5 goals and 27 assists in 72 games. He has the ability to contribute on the offensive end, but he is not prolific. He actually reminds me of a younger Pysyk. A smooth transitional game, not too flashy, but efficient. Usually the types of defensemen that make immediate impacts in the NHL at 18 years old are man-childs physically like Aaron Ekblad or Tyler Myers.
I'd like to see what Guhle can do, but I would urge Sabre fans to save your judgements if he does play. I wouldn't expect much from him other than trying to not mess up until the Sabres get healthy again.