When NHL Central Scouting released its final rankings in April, 24 Albertans appeared on the list - 20 skaters, and four goaltenders.
Among those is Team Alberta alumnus and Prince Albert Raiders defenceman, Kaiden Guhle, who came in at number eight among North American skaters, and is projected by many to be drafted in the first round.
On the eve of the NHL draft, Guhle said the nerves hadn’t quite kicked in yet.
“I think I’m just a lot more excited, than anything," he said. "Waited a long time for this, got pushed back a bit, and I think I can speak for every kid in saying we’re just happy to finally have it here and to get things started.The nerves are there, but right now I’m not feeling them a whole lot. I bet (Tuesday) when I wake up, getting up early and waiting the whole day for it to happen, I’m sure the nerves will come pretty strong, but right now I think my mom’s a lot more nervous than me."
The 2020 NHL Draft will have a much different look than any other draft. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s draft will be done virtually, much like the 2020 NFL Draft.
Guhle said that although it’s disappointing not to be in Montreal as originally planned, he’s looking forward to sharing the experience at home with family and friends.
"I think in a way, it works out," he said. "I know if I was going to Montreal, you could only bring a handful of family members, you don’t want to pack the whole thing. I’m having 15 people coming to my house (on Tuesday), so I’ll have a lot of people there who have supported me through my whole hockey career."
Guhle adds that the pre-draft process has also been quite different than normal, but it’s still been a memorable experience for him.
"It was a lot of virtual meetings, a lot of Zoom calls," he said. "Obviously, you’d like to meet the teams in person, if we were in Montreal, I’d maybe meet a couple teams right before for one last chat. It’s been a big honour to talk to a lot of those teams, you never know who you’re going to go to, so I want to leave a good impression on all of them and show them my personality and what type of person I am."
The Guhle family is familiar with the NHL Draft process, as Kaiden’s older brother Brendan was drafted 51st overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015.
Guhle said the influence of his brother, who now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, has been critical to his growth as a player.
"He’s been massive," he said. "I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t the biggest reason (I started playing), he’s the reason I picked up a hockey stick. Watching him growing up, I’ve always wanted to follow his footsteps in that way. He’s been huge for my hockey career, he’s talked to me a lot about this whole draft process – the ups and the downs, teams maybe getting under your skin to see how you react, just trying to keep me level-headed though the whole thing."
Guhle isn’t the only member of the Prince Albert Raiders hailing from Alberta waiting to hear their name called at the draft, as teammate Ozzy Wiesblatt is also expected to be drafted.
"I’ll definitely text him during the draft," Guhle said. "We’ve definitely talked about it and leaned on each other, we’ve been communicating a lot about this. I think there’s a bit of friendly competition, we’re both pretty competitive guys. We like to go at it at practice, and like to make each other mad – we both compete very hard, we both want to make each other better and that’s the only way you’re going to do it. I’ll definitely shoot him a text and see how he is on draft day, I’m sure he’ll be pretty nervous, just like me, so it’s good to get to go through that with him, and get to go through the whole experience with one of my best buddies."
Although it’s easy for a player to speculate as to which team they could end up on, Guhle said he’s not focused on that, and is going to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
"I’m happy with whatever team picks me, I have no preference to where I go," he said. "I think any team that picks me, I am very lucky to be that pick."
Round one of the 2020 NHL Draft kicks off Tuesday night at 5:00 p.m., with rounds two through seven to be held on Wednesday, starting at 9:30 a.m.