There’s not a lot to be excited about when it comes to the Montreal Canadiens’ NHL squad this season, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t be in for a treat this holiday season. Kaiden Guhle, Montreal’s first-round pick from 2020, has been named captain of Canada’s World Junior Championship squad. He’ll be joined by Jake Neighbours from the St. Louis Blues and Cole Perfetti from the Winnipeg Jets, who will serve as alternates.
Guhle and Perfetti were both on last year’s squad, which took home the silver after losing to the U.S. in the final. Neighbours meanwhile was not, meaning he’ll get his first chance to compete for Canada at this level. All three were first-round picks in 2020 and have actually already played some professional hockey, though Guhle’s time in the AHL was limited to just three games last season.
The 19-year-old defenseman is an impressive, do-it-all blueliner who has the size, skating ability, and aggressiveness that will quickly make him a fan favorite. Known for his willingness to lay open ice hits when the chance presents itself, teams have actually started to avoid his side of the ice entirely when attempting a zone entry. The 6’2″ Guhle has improved his offensive output this season as well, racking up 18 points in 20 games so far this season, split between the Prince Albert Raiders and Edmonton Oil Kings. That trade, which brought Guhle home to Edmonton, also took him to a WHL contender.
That contender also happens to have Neighbours in the lineup on a nightly basis, something that other teams fear when figuring out who to stop. The 19-year-old Blues prospect started the year in the NHL, scoring two points in nine games, and has 18 in ten contests since returning to the WHL. Able to create chances for himself and teammates almost at will, Neighbours should be a huge part of the Canadian attack even in his first go-round at the tournament.
It’s Perfetti though who was drafted the highest, and the one that’s currently starring at the professional level. The 10th-overall pick in 2020, he proved he could handle himself in the AHL as a teenager last season when he put up 26 points in 32 games. That performance hasn’t changed this season, as Perfetti has registered 15 points in 17 games with the Manitoba Moose as one of the few junior-aged exemptions. Last year the former Saginaw Spirit center was a difference-maker for Canada, this year will likely be no different.