For an NHL Draft prospect, when and where they are going to end up being selected can be a complete guessing game.
However, Prince Albert Raiders blueliner Kaiden Guhle had a sneaking suspicion that he might hear his name be called by the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night during the 2020 NHL Draft.
“I talked to them a few times, but what stands out to me was a Zoom call we had awhile back,” Guhle said during a virtual press conference. “It didn’t feel like an interview at all. It felt more like a conversation.
“I had a good feeling when I left that call and I had a good feeling again when I saw them come up at 16. I’m very happy with how it all turned out.”
In being picked 16th overall by the Habs, Guhle is the first Raiders player to be picked in the opening round since Leon Draisaitl went third overall to the Edmonton Oilers in 2014 and the first to be chosen by the Canadiens since Cole Fonstad was a fifth round choice in 2018.
Montreal had previously picked a Raider in the first round back in 2004 when they chose Kyle Chipchura with the 18th overall selection.
This also marks the 10th straight season that the Raiders have had a player selected during the NHL Draft.
“(Kaiden has) size, skating, range, he brings offensive skill to his game and he’s a little hard to play against,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said during Sportsnet’s live coverage of the draft. “He checks all the boxes for us.”
The first overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, the 18-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta. has put up 58 points in 137 regular season games for the Raiders.
He also had three assists in the team’s run to the WHL title in 2019 and has suited up for Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“The chance to develop my game in Prince Albert has been huge for me,” Guhle said. “(Head coach) Marc Habscheid and (assistant coach) Jeff Truitt were huge in not rushing me and they wanted to put me in the best positions for myself.
“Obviously you want to be on the ice as much as you can when you are young, but looking back on everything here tonight I think it all worked out well, especially as I learned from my coaches and all of my teammates.”
Guhle’s older brother Brendan, who also suited up for the Raiders during his WHL career before he was dealt to the Prince George Cougars in the fall of 2016, was a second round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015 and has suited up for 59 career NHL games with the Sabres and the Anaheim Ducks.
“I might have this one thing over him but he’s still got a lot more bragging rights than I do,” the younger Guhle said during Sportsnet’s coverage of the draft. “He’s played a lot more games in the NHL than I have.”
While he feels like he’s almost ready to make the jump to the pro ranks, Guhle will be spending the next two seasons in the WHL before hopefully starting to work his way through the Canadiens system.
“I feel like my game can translate well to the next level,” Guhle said. “With the way the NHL is now, you need to be able to skate in order to play and I feel like that’s my biggest attribute.
“After I get a couple of training camps under my belt, I’ll have a better idea of what the pro game is like and I’ll have a better understanding of the speed and the pace of the game. It’s up to me though after I finish my time in junior hockey to show the team what I can do.”