Kaiden Guhle has heard all the comparisons, and he understands them.
He is a defenceman, just like big brother Brendan. He was a very early pick in the WHL Bantam Draft, just like big brother Brendan. He patrols the blue-line for the Prince Albert Raiders, just like big brother Brendan.
And he doesn’t mind them one bit. After all, Brendan was a second-round NHL draft pick who had 21 games of big-league experience with the Buffalo Sabres before his 21st birthday.
So being compared to big brother Brendan? Yes, please.
“I try to take parts of his game and put it into mine,” Guhle says. “I love watching him; every time I watch him I look at what he does. I try to take his mentality and put it into what I do.
“We have always, coming up, kind of been doing the same thing.”
He’s adding another ‘same thing’ to the list this week, getting his first taste of international action as captain of Canada Red at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Brendan played in 2014, helping Pacific to a silver-medal finish in the final year of the Canadian regional team format.
Guhle, then just a few weeks shy of his 12th birthday, was at the tournament in Cape Breton, N.S., and remembers the support the Maritime crowd gave Pacific, and every Canadian entry.
Not surprisingly, he asked Brendan for a little bit of advice on how to approach the first step in the Program of Excellence. The answer was pretty simple.
“Listen,” Guhle says. “He told me he had a lot of fun here, tried to make friends with guys from Ontario, guys from Quebec, so I just try to do the same thing. All you can do is listen, work hard, listen to what your coaches are telling you, what teammates are telling you, and you always have to work your hardest.”
That is nothing new for the Sherwood Park, Alta., product, who worked his way to the top of the 2017 WHL draft. (Brendan was the No. 3 choice in 2012, two spots after reigning Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal.)
Guhle has played a supporting role early in his rookie season in Prince Albert, posting three points in 15 games for the Raiders, who are 16-1 and sitting atop the WHL standings and Canadian Hockey League rankings.
One would assume there’s a certain amount of pressure being the No. 1 pick on the No. 1 team in the country, but Guhle doesn’t see it that way. And he’s certainly not subscribing to theory that he has to be better than Brendan, who played three-and-a-half years for the Raiders.
“I try not to think about that,” he says of the expectations. “I try to think about myself and what I’m doing, and try to stay away from all the noise and all the hype that’s going around. I just try to get better, develop myself and learn as much as I can.”
Guhle will have plenty of opportunities to learn this week in Saint John and Quispamsis, and have a chance to do something big brother Brendan never did – leave the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with the top prize.
“I kind of joke around with him a little bit [about not winning gold], but it will be awesome just to represent my country,” he says. “Putting on that Maple Leaf is so special, and to win gold would make this experience so much better.”