Steel, Kyrou will be leaned on as Canada’s top offensive threats

Team-Canada's-Sam-Steel

Team Canada's Sam Steel, right, and University All-Stars Kendall McFaull chase a loose puck during first period World Junior hockey exhibition action Monday, December 12, 2016 in Boisbriand, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – In the grand scheme of things, it was a meaningless goal in a meaningless game.

But when Jordan Kyrou’s shot beat Danish goaltender Mads Sogaard with 2:41 left in the third period, it represented more than just the fifth Canadian marker in a pre-tournament affair.

“It was good to get things going and hopefully it can continue,” he said.

That’s what Canada will likely be counting on from Kyrou and his expected centreman Sam Steel when the world junior games begin for real on Boxing Day.

Paired together for the second time in as many days, Kyrou and Steel were dangerous all afternoon Friday. However, they had been held off the scoresheet until late in the third period of the 5-2 win.

That’s when things changed.

“We worked hard for those goals. We had a ton of shots. The puck just wasn’t going in,” said Steel, who picked up the second assist on Canada’s previous goal by Tyler Steenbergen, his second helper in as many games.

“We got rewarded at the end there.”

Kyrou and Steel acted as two-thirds of the top scoring line, first with Jonah Gadjovich on the left side on Thursday and then Steenbergen on Friday.

As two of the CHL’s most prolific point producers, their roles seem crystal clear.

“I’ve got to be more offensive,” Kyrou said. “Obviously, that’s what they want me to do. That’s what I’m going to try to do.”

Over the last calendar year, the two players have had no trouble piling up the points.

Steel was among the final cuts at last year’s selection camp, but bounced back to become the CHL’s top scorer with 131 points. He led the Regina Pats to the WHL final. The Pats captain has 35 points in 27 WHL games this season.

Kyrou wasn’t invited to camp last December and came sixth in OHL scoring with 94 points.

This year, Kyrou’s 58 points leads the OHL. The Sarnia Sting captain is averaging nearly two points per game. As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported, Kyrou is garnering interest for the Olympic team.

Obvious skill aside, their on-ice bond was forged in the August during the summer showcase tournament in Plymouth, Mich.

As linemates, Steel had two goals and five points in three games, while Kyrou scored four times and added an assist.

“He’s a fun player to play with,” Steel said. “He’s really fast. He’s always looking to make a play. When he gets it in that scoring area, you know it’s going in.”

Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme has stressed the importance of developing chemistry during camp. Based on their play in the summer, it was an easy decision to slot them as together again.

“At first we were just trying things. We saw this summer that they had chemistry,” Ducharme said. “We played them together here. We’ll see in the next few days. We’ll see what happens.”

There are plenty of similarities between the two players. They’re both listed at six feet and around 180 pounds. They were drafted five spots apart in the 2016 NHL Draft – Steel 30th by Anaheim and Kyrou 35th by St. Louis.

Their stats indicate they’re adept at setting up their teammates. But Kyrou’s right shot and Steel’s left make them suitable playmates.

“We both love to score goals, too. We’re both the type of player where if we think the guy’s in a better position to score, we’ll dish it off,” Steel said.

The results didn’t come in two games in St. Catharines, at least not until the very end.

Kyrou was on the verge of going pointless in back-to-back contests, something he’d done just once in the OHL this season. (He was given an assist on Steenbergen’s goal before he scored, but never touched the puck on the play.)

“I try not to worry about that. That’s going to happen. You’re not going to get points,” he said. “You want to focus on your game and try to get better. You’ve got to do whatever you can. The points will come eventually.”

Canada certainly hopes so.

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