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Captain Canada! Canadiens prospect Guhle is “Weber-esque”

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It was Montreal Canadiens training camp. Back in September, just a few weeks before the bottom started to fall out on the Habs 2021-22 season.

The AHL stragglers and the major-junior-bound prospects were trying their best to stand out. Albeit with limited success.

But there was a 19-year old who stood out from the rest. On the blueline, no less. His first pass was crisp. His feet were fast. He flew into hits as pros crossed his blueline and he won or drew most of the 1-on-1 battles he was in.

He looked like he belonged.

Oh Captain, my captain!

Yesterday, Hockey Canada announed that Guhle will captain Canada at the 2022 World Junior Hockey championship. His assistants, Blues prospect Jake Neighbours and Jets prospect Cole Perfetti, spoke glowingly about Guhle after the announcement.

When asked what does the 6-foot-2 defenceman brings to the team, Neighours was pretty succinct.

“Everything,” said Neighburs, now Guhle’s teammates in Edmonton after the defenceman was traded from Prince Albert Dec. 1st. “I think’s he’s a guy who obviously does it all on the ice. So skilled offensively, so hard to play against defensively. Skates well, moves the puck really well. He’s not the most vocal guy but I think he’s a guy who likes to joke around, keeps the boys laughing and loose. I think he brings an element of everything when it comes to leadership and I think he’s the right guy for the job for sure.”

“He’s kind of what you think (about) when it comes to that typical captain presence,” acknowledged Perfetti. “He’s one of those guys that leads by example. When he talks, it means something…For the most part he’s lighthearted, just joking around, having a good time and not too serious. But you know when something needs to be said I think everyone listens to him.

Perfetti added, “Guys are doing stuff on the ice that’s not clean, it’s sloppy or it’s just not 100 percent to our best, he’s getting on ’em. He’s making sure everyone’s in line. His play and work ethic in practice sets the bar pretty high so everyone has to follow.”

Speaking to TSN’s Mark Masters, Hockey Canada’s senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond paid Guhle the ultimate compliment when talking about his leadership.

“He has a presence,” said Salmond. “He makes me think of Shea Weber with the way he carries himself and the way he competes on the ice. He’s going to be a really good pro for a really long time. He’s that guy everyone looks to and looks up to in terms of his leadership, in terms of his maturity, in terms of his strength and size, so just kind of a natural leader in that sense.”

Not playing for silver

It’s clear listening to those who watch and play with him regularly that Guhle brings those character traits that were so crucial to the previous Montreal Canadiens administration that drafted him. But he marries that rugged, stay-at-home profile with elite skating that has him earmarked to potentially be a complete, top-pairing defenceman in the NHL.

McLean's Pub

TSN director of scouting Craig Button had this to say about Guhle’s game:

“Everywhere he’s been. he’s had success. He’s not interested in getting the runner-up medal. He’s interested in one thing: the gold. And that’s how he plays. As the tournament unfolds and the games get harder, there’s no way that Kaiden Guhle falls short. In fact, he takes his game up a notch. He wants to be that difference maker. It’s founded on a brilliant base of skating. Whether it be the quickness, the speed, the leverage. He is a difficult player to play against 1-on-1 and he loves to play physical. He closes the space on opponents. He’ll play on the power play, he’ll jump into the attack. But his overall brand of hockey is such that he’s going to be able to play in all the critical areas of the game.”

Montreal Canadiens fans will be keeping a keen eye on 2022 projected first-overall pick Shane Wright and 2023 projected first-overall pick Connor Bedard. Bedard says that when he’s on the ice, he makes sure he has an eye on Guhle.

“I’ve only played against him once but you notice how strong he is and his skating and how positionally good he is,” said the 16-year old phenom. “He’s one of the toughest guys to play against I’d say so you know just to have him on our team and just how steady he is is going to be really good for us.”

A coach’s dream

Team Canada’s head coach Dave Cameron explained why it was an easy decision to hand the keys to Canada over to the Montreal Canadiens prospect.

“We talk process, you know, stay with the process, every day and that’s exactly what Kaiden does,” Cameron said. “He’s a real pro. He comes in every day with a cool, calm demeanour and lets his performance do the talking for him. Probably the best way to describe him is a silent leader.”

Assistant coach Dennis Williams will be in charge of the blueline for Canada in their quest for gold. He spoke about the intangibles that Guhle brings to the team.

“Leadership, size, maturity,” Williams said. “Just a calming factor. You know he’s been around for some time. He’s been a leader through Hockey Canada. You know working with the D I’m going to be leaning on him lots out there as a guy that I respect very much as we see him in the Western Hockey League as well. But if you get to know him off the ice he’s just a tremendous person and you can see that on the ice as well. His care for his teammates and his care for team Canada and the team he plays for. I think he just resembles all-in-all what a Canadian hockey player is.”

 The man himself

“Obviously I think I bring experience from being here last year and going through the process last year,” said Guhle upon hearing the news he’d be captain of the team. “Helping out the new guys a little bit. I mean I think just doing the right things on the ice, off the ice. Being there for anyone if they have questions or anything. I’m just going to be there for the guys whenever they need it.”

With lofty comparisons and that so-called presence to go along with his natural hockey skills, Montreal Canadiens fans will be salivating over getting a chance to watch a potential captain-in-waiting in the midst of their worst season in club history. When Canada kicks off their campaign on Boxing Day against the Czechs in Edmonton, there will be only one goal for the competitor that is Kaiden Guhle.

“I was a part of that team last year so I know I’ve got a little bit of an extra chip on my shoulder, wanting to get the gold medal. I know the whole country felt it. So these guys that weren’t a part of the team last year I know are going to feel it too. We want a gold medal. Badly.”

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