The Prince Albert Raiders already knew they’d have to make do without captain Kaiden Guhle for the foreseeable future, but now they’ll have to do so permanently.
The Raiders dealt Guhle, who was recently selected to attend the Team Canada World Junior Camp in Calgary, to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday. In return, they received forward Carson Latimer, defenceman Eric Johnstone, two first round picks, a sixth round pick, and a conditional third round pick.
GM Curtis Hunt said it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but the club had to look at the bigger picture.
“We’re in a situation now where we’re going to lose Kaiden for a month,” Hunt told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “I think this was a deal we thought could provide us with scoring—certainly some depth and grit on the back end—as well as give us some cash in the bank, you could say, to either use to make us better now or at any given time.
“When you factor in all those pieces, it seemed this was a real good step for present or future Raider teams.”
Guhle led the Raiders in points with 15 (2 G, 13 A) in 17 games this year. He’ll slide into an Edmonton lineup that includes fellow first round NHL picks Dylan Guenther (Arizona), and Sebastian Cossa (Detroit).
Oil Kings GM Kirt Hill said they were excited to add a player they’ve been very interested in acquiring for a long time.
“Kaiden brings a wealth of experience, having won a WHL championship, and leadership with the role he had on his previous club with his strong character both on and off the ice,” Hill said in a media release. “Kaiden is one of the Canadian Hockey League’s premiere players and we feel this is an important acquisition to be adding to our strong core in Edmonton.”
The trade marks the end of an era in Prince Albert. The Raiders have had a Guhle on their roster for the last eight seasons, going back to Kaiden’s older brother Brendan.
Hunt wished Kaiden well, and said they’d always be happy to have another Guhle on the roster.
Despite trading away his captain, Hunt said he’s confident the Raiders can compete for a playoff spot. That will require some of the younger players to step up and play more prominent roles, something he’s confident they can do.
“Yes, we’ve lost a great player, but we were losing him anyways (for the World Juniors),” Hunt said. “Does that mean we were going to shut the doors for a month here, and (say) oh well, whatever? I look at it a different way. This was inevitable.
“We were going to be without Kaiden. Now we’ve got an opportunity to see what we have for leaders in our room. Who’s going to step up? There’s opportunity for ice. There’s opportunity for a number of things.”
In return, the Raiders picked up forward Karson Latimer, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Ottawa Senators in 2021, and rookie defenceman Eric Johnston. They also received first round picks in 2021 and 2023, a sixth round pick in 2022, and a conditional third round pick in 2025.
Latimer has six goals and eight points through 18 games this season, while Johnston, a Regina Pat-Canadians product, has four assists in 19 games.
Hunt said both players are high quality people who will fit seamlessly into the Raider organization.
“I’ve actually liked Carson since the bantam draft as a young player,” Hunt said. “He’s a Delta player. We’ve obviously watched that program quite a bit over the last little while, but he’s just a tremendous skater. He’s a competitor. He’s a guy that trends to score. I think he will get a better look up front in terms of more situations.
“On the back end, Eric’s a young D. He comes from a really good program with the Pat C’s. We know those guys extremely well. We’ve had really good success with their graduates, as we see them not only in our program, but around the league as well.
“Again, he’s a younger guy, but he plays with some grit. He’s a competitor, and we think there’s some tremendous upside as he gets a little more acclimated with our system and our structure.”
The Raider now own the 13th and 14th overall selections in the upcoming 2021 prospects draft. Hunt said he’s confident those picks will be able to jump in and compete for a roster spot next fall.
Plans for the 2023 first rounder are a little murkier. Hunt said they’ll have to see how the landscape changes before they decide whether to keep or trade the pick, and that’s extremely difficult given the uncertainly around cross-border games, and added travel time caused by flooding in the B.C. interior.
“We feel that we can really get a good foothold for the future,” he said.
The Raiders are back in action Friday night when they take on the Regina Pats at the Art Hauser Centre. Puck drop is 7 p.m.