Kaiden Guhle skates during a practice at the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championships selection camp in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Kaiden Guhle gears up to play for Canada again, but in his home rink this time

CALGARY — Kaiden Guhle will be even more of a hometown favourite at the 2022 world junior men’s hockey championship in Edmonton.

The Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders traded the defenceman to the Edmonton Oil Kings the same day he was invited to the Canadian junior hockey team’s selection camp Dec. 1.

“It was a little bit of a crazy day,” Guhle said.

He’s one of three returning players from the Canadian team that earned a silver medal in Edmonton at the 2021 world under-20 tournament there.

While the 19-year-old from nearby Sherwood Park, Alta., was considered a local product then, there were no fans in Rogers Place to acknowledge that because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be spectators this time and Guhle is pumped up about it.

“Sometimes you just lay in bed and think about it and get chills just thinking about how electric Rogers Place is going to be,” Guhle said. “Definitely going to be fired up for the first shift and all the games that come, so that will be special.

“It’s going to be a little bit different now that it’s my home rink.”

Canada’s roster will be unveiled Monday at the conclusion of a four-day selection camp. The host country opens the tournament co-hosted by Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., on Dec. 26 against the Czech Republic.

Guhle squeezed in three games with the Oil Kings before selection camp.

The first-round (16th overall) draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2020 scored a game-winner for the Oil Kings in a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Ice the night before reporting to Calgary.

He’s one of four Oil Kings invited to try out for Canada alongside goaltender Sebastian Cossa and forwards Dylan Guenther and Jake Neighbours.

Guhle is a virtual lock to play for Canada again. The six-foot-three 203-pound defender got in an NHL training camp with the Canadiens this year and appeared in three pre-season games.

“It was a long time coming. With COVID, we didn’t have a training camp,” Guhle said. “It was special to play a few pre-season games there and be there for almost a month was really awesome.”

He feels his game is at another level this year because of that experience.

“One year is pretty big at this age group, so maturity,” he said. “My puck-moving skills have improved a little bit just from seeing other guys play, being with other guys in higher levels and playing pro hockey.

Canada fell 2-0 to the United States in the gold-medal game of the 2021 tournament at Rogers Place.

Guhle, who had two goals, one assist and was plus-8 in that tournament, would like nothing better than to win gold this time in his home rink.

“I don’t think there’s unfinished business for myself, just unfinished business for the team,” he said. “Playing at home, there’s a lot of pressure and when you’re playing for Canada you’re expected to win.

“The guys know that. The guys are hungry for a gold medal.”