It’s been a long, interesting road for Nate Guenin.
So when Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy told him to “get a place”, it had to have felt like he’d finally made it.
You’d feel that way, too, if you were a journeyman defenseman told that by a Hockey Hall of Famer. But at 30, Guenin is finally on the big stage and doing well for the upstart Avalanche, now 10-1-0 on the young season.
The 6’2”, 211lbs defenseman was told those three wonderful words in Pittsburgh of all places. Guenin is from nearby Sewickley, PA and was no doubt living a dream being back on home ice, in the top six against his hometown Penguins.
Selected 127th overall in the 2002 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers, Guenin would spend four years with the Ohio State Buckeyes before signing his first pro deal with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006.
Since then, it’s been a battle for the stay-at-home defender. With just 32 games in the NHL to his credit (and just two with his hometown Penguins), his career has been one of patience and lots of waiting in the AHL. He’s bounced around with seven organizations in his seven-year career and, for awhile, it looked like he might not make it.
Flash forward to today and Guenin is one of the prime penalty killers on the league’s top penalty killing unit. He even helped shut down Sidney Crosby and pals in a 1-0 Avalanche win in Pittsburgh earlier in the month. Not bad, eh?
The team has found such confidence in Guenin, who signed a one-year, two-way free agent deal worth $600k in Denver, that the team has regularly scratched Tyson barrie and demoted Stefan Elliott and Matt Hunwick to Lake Erie of the AHL.
“When I spoke to him on the phone in the summer, I said: ‘Why don’t you come play for us? You’ll be our first call-up from the minors…for sure the first call-up on the right side,’” Roy said of Guenin. “He was so good in training camp, played so well since the start of the year, he’s forced us to play him every night. He’s outstanding on penalty killing, he has really good body positioning in our d-zone, he’s blocked shots. He certainly deserves a lot of credit.”
For Guenin, the journey certainly isn’t over, but it’s nice for him to have found a place where he can succeed but a place that needs him. And like his team, he’s tasting real success for the first time and won’t want to let it go.
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