MONTREAL – Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are the top two centers for Team North America, so pre-tournament pundits predicting they might form some sort of super line during the World Cup of Hockey don’t look like they’ll get their wish. But there will be glimmers of that, and it was unveiled during practice Tuesday in Bell Centre.
In their first special teams work in advance of Thursday’s exhibition game against Team Europe in Quebec City, the under-24 squad iced a star-studded power play: Eichel and McDavid played up front along with Columbus’ Brandson Saad. The point men were Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft -- and Winnipeg center Mark Schiefele.
“There’s a lot of talent out there,” McDavid said. “And it works out well that we’re kind of all different shots and there’s one-timers on other side, so it’s obviously a huge benefit.”
McDavid is a left-handed shot who will patrol the middle of the ice while Eichel goes from the right side and will hang wide.
“We’re really moving the puck around,” Eichel said. “There’s really so many good players who can be on the power play. It’s a very versatile group and we’ll see how it goes. it’s good to have that.”
While pairing Eichel and McDavid together seems like it was scratched on the legal pad by Team North America coach Todd McLellan months ago, the Edmonton boss said there was plenty of study done on the subject.
“What we did was look at where they’re comfortable and what positions they play with their club team,” McLellan said. “Everybody has a tendency to migrate to a certain spot on the power play ... our staff has done a really good job of looking at that. It presented itself that those two wouldn’t migrate to the same spot in the offensive zone and that allowed them to play together.”
Team North America worked out again for nearly two hours over two sessions. The line combinations remained mostly the same. The biggest news was that No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews of Toronto moved up a spot, getting time on the third line with fellow former No. 1s Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Detroit’s Dylan Larkin also spent time on the fourth line.
Here’s how Team North America looked today:
Jonathan Drouin-Connor McDavid-Mark Schiefele
Johnny Gaudreau-Jack Eichel-Brandon Saad
Auston Matthews-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Nathan MacKinnon
Dylan Larkin/JT Miller-Sean Couturier-Vincent Trocheck
Morgan Rielly - Aaron Ekblad
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jacob Trouba
Ryan Murray - Seth Jones
Matt Murray-John Gibson-Connor Hellebucyk