He's been there before, but it's "night and day" to where he was as a player, prospect and person a year ago.
Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton will once again represent his home country at the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament, which takes place this year in the host cities Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic from December 26 - January 5.
The 19-year-old will play for Team Canada, with whom he registered four assists in five games during last year's tournament.
"I'm extremely excited," Hayton said on Thursday. "It's a great opportunity for me. I have some experience, I was there last year, and I think it's huge for me to go and to take a leadership role. It's an exciting tournament and I'm really looking forward to it."
In 14 NHL games played thus far, the rookie forward has registered four points (1G, 3A), scoring his first career NHL goal on October 25 in a 5-3 Coyotes win over the New Jersey Devils.
Video: ARI@NJD: Hayton taps in first career NHL goal
"It's been a good first half to Barrett's first season in the NHL," President of Hockey Operations and General Manager John Chayka said. "He has had some successes and faced some adversity, and has dealt with both with poise and maturity beyond his years. He continues to develop his game and work towards being the impact player at the NHL level that we know he's capable of being."
This won't be the first time Hayton heads overseas to play in the Czech Republic; he won gold with Canada's U18 national junior summer hockey team at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, and finished tied for second on the team in scoring with six points (3G, 3A) in five games.
"It was amazing," Hayton said of that 2017 experience. "To date, that's one of my top hockey memories, I definitely have a good taste of that country."
Having the opportunity to again play for Canada on a national stage, and in a country where he's reached the pinnacle of competition, is something not only he, but the Coyotes' staff is embracing.
"I believe any time you can represent your country on the international stage, it's a special opportunity," Chayka added. "Barrett is now a returning player who will be looked upon as a leader. He will be playing meaningful minutes in a competitive tournament and we expect him to play well. Hopefully he can get some rhythm and momentum as he returns to the Coyotes."
Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet is looking forward to the regularity in the high level of play Hayton's going to get competing against the under-20 elite players of the world.
"Intense competition," Tocchet said of what he's looking for Hayton to take away from the tournament. "He's going to go there and he's going to be the main guy, he's going to be a leader, he'll probably be one of the captains. It's about two-three weeks of intense hockey, playing for your country; it's something that he needs, but when he's done he'll be back here again. I think it's just a good situation for him, it's tough for a kid not to play and he's ready to go."
Video: Barrett Hayton - 2020 WJC Tournament Reaction
Hayton left for Toronto on Friday to join Team Canada ahead of its preliminary games and the eventual opening match against Team USA on December 26.
"I have the chance to go over there and play a key role," Hayton said. "It's the leadership aspect, but also just being an important player, one of those go-to guys that the team has to rely on, so it's a great opportunity for me to go play and come back to the Coyotes with new energy."
Canada will play in Pool B during the tournament, which includes the United States, Russia, Canada, Czech Republic, and Germany. Hayton is ready to take what he's learned on and off the ice from his four months with the Coyotes to help his home country go up against a heavy slew of competition.
"I think the experience in the tournament last year and all of the experience I've had so far this season with the big club playing in some intense games, it's definitely a great opportunity for me to take it and run with it."