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Lost in the Avalanche: Nate Guenin

The defenseman played the majority of NHL games in Colorado with lots of changes happening along the way.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Nate Guenin was born on December 10, 1982, in the small town of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Growing up in the States, Guenin always found his young life playing hockey all the way through high school in the suburb of Pittsburgh. He then played for two years from 2000-2002 in the USHL in Green Bay with the Gamblers. In two years, he played 110 games with only six goals and 22 assists, earning USHL All-Rookie team honors in 2001.

After his 2002 season, Guenin would be drafted 127th overall by the New York Rangers in the fourth round. He would take some time to get into the organization, however, as he spent four years at The Ohio State University.

(032903 - PROVIDENCE, RI) Boston College’s Stephen Gionta, right, battles Ohio State’s Nate Guenin for the puck during second period action of Saturday’s NCAA East Regional Semifinal action at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. Boston College Photo by MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

He played all four years of his college eligibility there, again recording nothing too spectacular. In 151 games, he again only got six goals and 47 assists. Guenin would follow this trend throughout his career, not being a prolific goal-scoring defenseman but rather one that can move the puck, get in front of pucks, and take a lot of penalties. In four years, he accused a whopping 390 penalty minutes over the four years at OSU.

He was let go by the Rangers organization and picked up by the Philadelphia Flyers AHL-affiliate Philadelphia Phantoms for the 2006-07 season. He also broke into the Flyers team for the first NHL action of his career at 24. In nine games in the NHL, Guenin recorded only two assists in 8:40 average time on ice. In 68 games in the AHL, Guenin got two goals and nine assists while upping up his penalty minutes, up to 92 minutes that season.

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images

This is where things got really wacky and weird in Guenin’s career. From 2007-2012, Guenin moved teams multiple times and never got a chance to settle down and play a certain style of hockey under a specific coach. He would play for nine different teams in the five-year span in both the NHL and AHL.

To quickly recap his travels, he moved from the Flyers to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. In 2010, he moved to the St. Louis Blues but only played in the AHL and never broke into the Blues team. In the offseason, he was acquired by the Columbus Blue Jackets and only played three times in Columbus with the rest of his action that year in the AHL. Finally, he moved to the Anaheim Ducks midseason in 2011.

In the 2011-12 season with the Ducks, he played the most NHL games in a season up to that point with 15 games and finally got that elusive first NHL goal five years after his debut against Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres in a 4-1 loss. His time in Anaheim would only last one year before he played with AHL-affiliate Norfolk Admirals for the 2012-13 season before finally ending up with the Colorado Avalanche in summer 2013.


The Avs picked him up as a free agent and Guenin would be part of the bottom pairing in the Avalanche defense. This would be the first and only time that the Avs’ No. 5 would have consistent NHL playing time and what some may call perhaps the peak of his NHL career. Guenin was a veteran in hockey at this point, even if he had spent the majority of his playing career in the AHL.

Guenin’s first year would be in the first year of the Patrick Roy era in the 2013-14 season. He’d find himself on the ice for 68 games with a goal and eight assists and get his first and only taste of the Stanley Cup playoffs that season too. He played all seven games against the Minnesota Wild, only getting an assist in the series loss. With an average of 17:17 time on ice that season, it was the most active he’d ever been.

This was also where his game stood out defensively. He recorded 128 blocks and was a big hitter, rattling the boards 119 that season too. Guenin very much came into his own with the Avalanche. His consistent playing time and stability under a head coach like Roy worked well for his style of play and ultimately gave Guenin something to stand on as his career was winding down. He also got gritty with his first career fight in the NHL under Roy’s system.

In the following 2014-15 season, Guenin played in a record 76 games in his career with two goals and 15 assists. He continued to rack up both blocks and hits, with 162 and 94 respectively that season. His average time on ice did drop slightly, however, dipping down to 16:51. It still did not stop him in what some might’ve seen as the best season of his NHL career.

In what would end up being his third and final season in an Avalanche uniform, Guenin would drop down the pecking order, only playing 29 games at the then-Pepsi Center in the 2015-16 season. He put up goose eggs across the stat line and his totals for blocks and hits dropped drastically, only recording 33 and 15 respectively. Guenin’s final NHL game would be on January 12 against the Tampa Bay Lightning before being shipped down to the AHL San Antonio Rampage for the rest of the season.

Guenin had some impressive feats while he was in an Avalanche uniform. For one, it was the most consistency he saw in his entire career when it came to playing at the NHL level and for what probably felt like an extended period of time for him. A key part of Guenin’s game up to that point also had evaporated heavily in the three years he played in Colorado.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

This “evaporated stat” was how much, or how little for that matter, he spent in the penalty box. While in his youth he had upwards of 150 penalty minutes in one season, for the Avs in three seasons he only had 80 penalty minutes total. This was crucial to Guenin getting more time on ice for the Avs, chances to up his point total, and to be entrusted with more responsibility on the backline.

However, Guenin did struggle with giveaways all throughout his career and it was no different in Colorado. In three years, he gave the puck away 58 times. He could never make up for those giveaways with big takeaway numbers either, so often times when he gave it away he couldn't win it back. This especially hurt the Avs on the back-end after the one-season wonder in ‘13-14 before things went really downhill in ‘14-15 and ‘15-16.

Guenin would be released from the Avalanche during free agency in the summer of 2016, ending what some may say was his best time in the NHL. He would give his NHL career one last try on a two-way deal back with the Ducks but was placed on waivers after a few preseason games. It led to his final professional season in the AHL with the San Diego Gulls, producing two goals and 10 assists. He got one last chance at the Calder Cup but was eliminated with the Gulls in 10 games in the postseason where he only put up a goal and assist.

Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It would be the last action Guenin had in his career, and he hung up the skates at 35 years old. Since then, Guenin has been almost nowhere to be found as there’s very little out there about him information-wise. He has no social media or news about him or anything out on the interwebs. Wherever Nate may be, hopefully, he’s found some relaxation after a chaotic and relentless career in hockey in North America.