For Fargo Force forward Gabe Guertler, every negative experience in the last two years has tried to be turned into a positive.
After playing alongside current NTDP forwards J.T. Compher and Anthony Louis as 15-year-olds at Team Illinois and finishing second on the team in points, Guertler did not make the National Team Development Program. Instead of playing in Ann Arbor, Guertler was selected second overall in the 2010 Futures Draft by Fargo and had an impressive rookie season.
Despite being one of the leading scorers for the United States at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August, Guertler never received an invite that 40 other draft eligible Americans received to play in the All American Prospects Game a month later. Instead, Guertler scored two goals in the game directly following the Prospects Game.
Through the first month of the season, Guertler leads the USHL in goals, but was not selected to represent the USA at the World Junior A Challenge, which begins Monday. Instead of missing USHL games, Guertler will try to continue his point-per-game pace he has been on.
“It would have been nice to be at the [All American Prospects Game], but it’s obviously not the end of the world. Guertler said. “It was one game and what really matters is how you play throughout the season.”
Season play is just what the Plantation, Fla. native has excelled at with 28 points in 57 games for Fargo as a 16-year-old last season. This season Guertler is almost halfway to his mark from last year with 12 in 12 games.
“I’m a lot more confident with the puck and I feel like I now have a lot more time,” said Guertler comparing this year to the last. “More playing time this year has also helped, but a lot of it has come down to my confidence—being used to the league and knowing what to expect has been huge.”
With the 2013 NHL Draft here sooner than later, Guertler takes a similar mindset with the Draft as he does with being left off teams, controlling what he can control.
“Honestly I really don’t think too much about the Draft right now,” Guertler said. “I just try and focus on my game, play hard, and hopefully everything will play out at the end.”
You had a really good Ivan Hlinka tournament, what all went right for you personally over there?
I think it had a lot to do with my hard work this summer and my linemates so that helped a lot (playing with Adam Erne the entire tournament). We didn’t do as well as a team as we wanted to over there, but overall I thought I had a really good tournament.
What all went into your summer training that you are saw the benefits from at the Ivan Hlinka in August and now?
After the season was over I took a couple weeks off and went back to Florida. Then there was [USA Hockey’s Select 17 Player Development Camp in June]. I trained for a month or so at a hockey training facility in Florida and skated a little bit. I also went up to Ontario for three weeks and did a lot of skating and off ice training. I think all of those things got me ready for the tournament and the season.
What all has gone right for you this season?
I think a lot of the little things. Before and after practices I’ve been working on shooting and the skills parts of my game. I’m shooting the puck a lot more this year and I’m going to the net more and my line mates have also been working well together.
Watching you play, it’s obvious that you have a gritty aspect to your game in addition to your ability to create offense. Is being hard to play against something you pride yourself on?
Yeah I don’t really like taking any crap from players; if they are going to hit me I’m going to hit them back. I like to play hard and I think that’s a pretty big part of my game. I’m not the most physical guy, but I like to play gritty and get under players’ skin.
Describe the rest of your game in addition to your gritty play.
I’d say I’m a skilled forward and have pretty good vision on the ice. For the most part I’m a playmaker and see the play pretty well and make things happen in the offensive zone.
You’re committed to the University of Minnesota, but you’re from Florida. If I remember correctly there are some family ties to the school that may have led you to commit there. Talk a little bit about those ties and your decision to play hockey next year with the Golden Gophers.
Yeah, my dad is from Minnesota and went to the University of Minnesota. I think there were also some other family members that went there as well. I don’t think he had too much of an impact in my decision to go up there though. Overall I liked the school, the coaches, it’s a really nice area, and the academics allow you to get a good job when hockey is done.