Team North America’s 4-0 win over Team Europe this past week has been one of the more impressive showings from the early round of World Cup tune-up games.
The roster is also one of the most intriguing ones in the tournament because it is made up entirely of the best American and Canadian players age 23 and younger, and their speed and skill was on display in that opening game in what turned out to be a lopsided blowout.
Coach Todd McLellan is making a couple of lineup changes for the rematch with Europe on Sunday night by giving John Gibson a look in goal and inserting Dylan Larkin and Colton Parayko into the lineup.
When you are talking about a best-on-best international tournament it should be obvious that you are going to get some amazing line combinations that you would never see in an actual NHL game because these are pretty much All-Star teams that have been assembled. So seeing three All-Star level players on a line together really isn’t anything unique in this setting.
But every once in a while you see still get something that really stands out, and this line has the potential to do just that for no other reason than the pedigree of the players involved.
McDavid and Eichel were not only the top two picks in the 2015 draft, they were probably the most anticipated top two picks to enter the NHL since the Alex Ovechkin–Evgeni Malkin draft of 2004. Their potential pretty much made the 2014-15 season a season long competition between a handful of teams to see who could finish with the worst record to guarantee a shot at at least one of them.
The duo did not disappoint when they made their NHL debuts in 2015.
Eichel was not only a one-man highlight reel in Buffalo on most nights, he was also the team’s second-leading scorer as a 19-year-old.
McDavid ended up missing half of his rookie season due to injury but still managed to finish as the fourth leading rookie scorer in the league. Among all players that played in at least 40 games, his 1.06 points per game average was third best in the NHL behind only Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn, the NHL’s past two scoring champions.
Now you get to see them on the ice together. On the same line.
And then you have Gaudreau.
One of the smallest players in the NHL, he is also one of the league’s most creative and dynamic players and is coming off of a 78-point season that put him in the top-seven in the NHL’s scoring race. He was a bright spot on what was an otherwise disappointing Flames team.
Between Gaudreau and Eichel, this line also boasts two of the past three Hobey Baker Award winners.
Early on this looks to be the fastest team in the tournament, and that is going to be a huge advantage. With physical play dominating the talk between the United States and Canada, Gaudreau was quick to point out in a recent National Post feature on the team that “it’s tough to hit someone you can’t catch.”
As the past two postseasons have shown us speed is starting to become the name of the game in the NHL over size and strength.
This line might be the fastest one on the fastest team in the tournament.