Any time a best-on-best international hockey event is on the horizon, you can count on Canadians pointing out that Team Canada II could probably medal at said event. While the comment draws attention to our deep talent pool, I suspect it also serves as a bit of a twitchy, preemptive strike against other nations in case Team Canada I doesn’t perform to expectations.
That concept combined with some scorching play by a subset of American players — a number of whom are reaching new career heights or re-establishing themselves as studs — both this past weekend and on the season, in general, got me thinking: What would Team USA, consisting just of players from Canadian NHL team look like?
On Friday, Canada’s most Yankee-defined team — the Winnipeg Jets — smashed the Chicago Blackhawks 5-1. Kyle Connor scored his eighth goal of the campaign and even if he doesn’t reach the roughly 60 he’s on pace for, a career-best 45 to 50 seems extremely possible. Connor leads the Jets in both goals and points (16), putting him four ahead of the guy who is No. 2 on the list, Connor’s fellow Michigander Andrew Copp. The former notched three assists against Chicago and has 12 points in 11 contests as he continues to prove last year’s prorated 58-point breakout campaign was no fluke.
The Vancouver Canucks lost 3-2 to the Nashville Predators that same night, but Brock Boeser found the net and his American countrymen J.T. Miller and Conor Garland — both of whom showed up on the scoresheet during Sunday’s victory against Dallas — are pacing the Canucks in scoring. American D-man Quinn Hughes is tied for third.
On Saturday, the Stars and Stripes show featured Auston Matthews — you knew we’d get to him soon enough — bagging a pair in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-2 victory over Boston, as the reigning Rocket Richard winner seems to have found his stroke after missing games early in the season. At the other end of the ice, Jack Campbell’s 42 saves made sure the Leafs left happy.
Up the road in Ottawa, Brady Tkachuk hit pay dirt in his first game as captain of the Senators, though the Sens fell 5-3 to the Tampa Bay Lighting. Brady’s brother Matthew, meanwhile, was going between the legs in Calgary, sticking it to the New York Rangers and, perhaps, anybody who thought the Flames were crazy enough to trade him for fellow American Jack Eichel last week.
Johnny Gaudreau pitched in two goals and three points of his own during Calgary’s 6-0 beat down over the Blueshirts, as the Jersey boy is producing at by far his best clip since the 2018-19 season.
Throw in stellar starts by the likes of Jets defenceman Nate Schmidt and Ottawa centre Josh Norris and, my goodness, you’ve got yourself an Olympic contender. Just for fun, have a look at this lineup made of Americans who play their trade north of the 49th.
Johnny Gaudreau-Auston-Matthews Matthew Tkachuk
Kyle Connor-Josh Norris-Blake Wheeler
Brady Tkachuk-Andrew Copp-Conor Garland
J.T. Miller-Christian-Dvorak Brock Boeser
Extras: Blake Coleman, Kailer Yamamoto
Quinn Hughes-Jeff Petry
Noah Hanifin-Neal Pionk
Nate Schmidt-Tucker Poolman
Good enough to win a medal? Maybe. One thing is for sure, the “North Division” is increasingly defined by star power from south of the border.
• The Yotes are on the board! After 11 straight L’s — 10 of them in regulation — Arizona got a late goal from Lawson Crouse to beat the Seattle Kraken 5-4 on Saturday for its first win in a dozen tries this season. Shayne Gostisbehere picked up three helpers as the D-man is one of the lone bright spots thus far for the Coyotes. The former Flyer has found his offensive game in the desert, notching nine points to lead Arizona in scoring.
• Speaking of Arizona, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll start to see some trades out there sooner rather than later as teams around the league are starting to get itchy. On Saturday, the Hawks relieved coach Jeremy Colliton of his duties right on the heels of us finally getting a resolution to the Eichel situation. Everyone expects Phil Kessel will be dealt out of Arizona and it seems like clubs have let things play out for a month and are ready to start pulling some triggers.
• How about Troy on-a-Terry? The Ducks have been hoping Terry’s AHL stats would translate to the NHL at some point and, right now, the 24-year-old is producing like few in the league. The Denver boy’s latest strike was scoring the game-winner in a 4-1 triumph over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. After being held off the scoresheet in the season-opener, Terry has registered at least a point in each of the Ducks’ 11 subsequent outings. That’s a big reason why the re-tooling team has a solid 6-4-3 record right now.
Moritz Seider made his first NHL goal a memorable one, scoring in overtime on Saturday to give Detroit a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Wings defenceman is neck-and-neck with teammate Lucas Raymond in the Calder Trophy race right now.
>h3>Red and White Power Rankings
1. Edmonton Oilers (9-1-0): On the night the team honoured a great defenceman from its past by retiring Kevin Lowe’s No. 4, current blue-liner Tyson Barrie had his best outing of the season with three points in a 6-5 win over the New York Rangers.
2. Calgary Flames (7-1-3): With an apple Saturday versus the Rangers, Oliver Kylington is riding a six-game point streak. The 24-year-old defenceman appears to be making the leap.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-4-1): Five straight wins now for the Buds, who haven’t allowed more than two goals in each of their past three outings.
4. Winnipeg Jets (6-3-2): It’s great to see goalie Eric Comrie — who’s had one wild waivers ride these past couple seasons — turning in solid play for the Jets. With Hellebuyck sidelined by an illness this weekend, Comrie went 1-1-0 in the crease with a combined save percentage of .939.
5. Vancouver Canucks (5-6-1): The Canucks had to have Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Dallas Stars — and you can probably say the same of Tuesday’s game versus the Ducks, which closes out a seven-game homestand.
6. Ottawa Senators (3-7-1): Things are getting away from Ottawa fast, as the squad has now dropped seven of its past eight games following Saturday’s 5-3 setback to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
7. Montreal Canadiens (3-10-0): If you’re looking for bright spots, Nick Suzuki has left a slow start behind by posting 11 points in his past seven games, including a 1-1-2 night in Saturday’s loss to Vegas.
The Week Ahead
• The Oilers start a five-game roadie in Detroit on Tuesday. At this point, you have to believe Wings fans are thrilled with the job GM Steve Yzerman is doing, while the man he replaced — Ken Holland — sure seems to have the Oilers on the right track, too.
• Speaking of Holland, the 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class will finally get its moment in the sun starting on Friday. After COVID prevented a ceremony last year, Holland, Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kim St-Pierre, Kevin Lowe and Doug Wilson will all get their rings. Congrats, all.