Los Angeles native, NHL pick Guttman growing into USHL captaincy
The 2017 calendar year was not a bad time for Cole Guttman.
• Named captain of his United States Hockey League (USHL) team.
• Selected in the NHL Draft.
• Able to sign a National Letter of Intent to play NCAA Division I hockey.
• A member of the United States at last month’s World Junior A Challenge.
All of that said, it hasn’t been an easy season for the Los Angeles native. He’s still putting up points (11 through Dubuque’s first 17 games after 54 in 53 games during the 2016-17 season), but wearing the ‘C’ is stretching him.
“He’s had some growing to do into the role,” said his coach, fellow Californian Oliver David. “When you’re playing in the USHL, or anywhere, and you return, there are going to be expectations. The previous year is not always an accurate gauge for the way things will go.
“Add the responsibility of being a captain and the way the league is going in terms of parity, especially in the Eastern Conference, and it’s a challenge. Cole’s had a big role in leading us on the ice and no time to rest because every game is so competitive. His level has had to raise from game to game, and he’s done a nice job responding to that challenge.”
David is the second head coach Guttman has played for in Dubuque, and he said he’s taken nuggets from him and former Saints coach Jason Lammers, who is leading a massive turnaround at NCAA D-I Niagara University this season.
“I learned a lot from Coach Lammers,” Guttman said. “I’ve added my own spin to it. We have a great group of leaders this season. Coach David is a hard worker who really cares about his team. He’s really into watching video and helping you perfect the small areas of your game.”
Guttman favors taking a quiet approach to his leadership role, but he will speak up when the situation calls for it. It can be a delicate balancing act.
“I try not to speak too much when it’s not wanted,” he said. “I like to lead by example. I will let guys know what they’re doing well and add constructive criticism when needed.”
Guttman, who was picked by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round last June, signed his NLI with defending national champion Denver in November. He had previously committed to NCHC rival St. Cloud State, but de-committed earlier in the fall.
“I have nothing but great things to say about St. Cloud, but I’m really excited about Denver,” he said. “It’s closer to home, and I liked what (Denver coach) Jim Montgomery had to say. I liked how he and his staff develop players, and their style of play fits mine.
“Add in their history and what they’ve done, winning championships, and there was a huge appeal.”
Guttman’s next adventure took him and former LA Selects and LA Jr. Kings teammate Jack St. Ivany, a defenseman for the Sioux Falls Stampede who has committed to Yale, to Truro, Nova Scotia, to play for Team USA in the Junior A Challenge, which can be a precursor to playing in the World Junior Championship in ensuing years.
“It is an honor to put on that jersey and represent your country,” Guttman said.
That experience no doubt will stretch Guttman further, playing against many of the top players in the world at his age, but he’s well equipped for it, David said.
“He’s improving on his all-around competitiveness,” the coach said. “You’re not going to survive on the ice in this year’s USHL if you’re not consistently trying to win races, not consistently attempting to win the stick battles. There’s not a lot of time and space.
“Like it or not, it’s raise your game or fall to the wayside, and Cole’s not going to let that happen. That’s a strength, strength of character.”
Which is what every team wants in its captain.
Photos/Stephen Gassman Photography/Dubuque Fighting Saints
— Chris Bayee
(Jan. 15, 2018)