In late July, Bill Armstrong was preparing for his first draft as the Coyotes General Manager when he acquired the No. 9 overall pick hours before the 2021 NHL Entry Draft got underway. Armstrong knew that this would be an important selection for the club, and he chose winger Dylan Guenther out of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings.
Midway through his age-18 season, Guenther has continued to impress and will now have the opportunity to live out every Canadian hockey player's dream and represent his country at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.
"I'm super excited. Up in Canada this tournament is a huge deal," said Guenther. "Cheering for Team Canada is something I've always done as a little kid, and I've kind of idolized those players in the past so it's pretty cool to be able to have that opportunity this year."
Guenther will also be representing the Coyotes organization at the tournament and will be competing against some the best teenagers in the world. It's a big first step toward his development curve as Armstrong and the Coyotes' Hockey Operations staff monitor his progression.
"I've always said it's the best youth hockey tournament out there," said Armstrong. "It's a big accomplishment for him to be an 18-year-old and make that team. That's a small victory for him just because of the simple fact that it's really a 19-year-old tournament. He stepped into Canada, which is one of the toughest teams to make in this tournament, and made the team as an 18-year-old. It's really a good accomplishment for him to achieve at such a young age."
From Guenther's perspective, an additional reason he's excited is because he recognizes the opportunity to hone his skills on one of the biggest international stages in his hometown of Edmonton.
"Playing against all the other top guys, that's where you want to be as a player. How you get better is competing and playing against all the other top players in the world," said Guenther. "It's always a great opportunity when you get to go to the international events and experience playing against the best in other nations as well. To have this opportunity to play at home in front of my friends and family in Edmonton is something that I will never forget."
While there is an individual focus on the tournament centered around player development, Guenther makes it very clear that Canada is in it to win it.
"Whenever you get the chance to represent Team Canada at these events, whether it be the U18 or the U20, as a team you expect to win," said Guenther. "That's something that we do here. We're practicing hard every single day and competing hard against each other because we know that's how it's going to be at the tournament."
What kind of hockey can fans expect to see out of Guenther and the Canadians?
"A hardworking, honest and competitive effort from myself and Canada as a whole," he said. "We strive to be the hardest-working team and the most detail-oriented. We're focused on playing as a unit and playing as one and coming together to make it the best team possible."
Team Canada is in Group A and opens the tournament on December 26 against the Czech Republic.