Through two games at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championships, the best line for Team Canada, and in the tournament, has been the line of Mark Stone, Ryan Strome and Jonathan Huberdeau.
In Canada’s 8-1 trouncing of Finland in the tournament opener, the line combined for a remarkable 12 points and scored five of the eight goals. In last night’s 5-0 win over the Czech’s, they combined for a modest five points. After two games the trio ranks in the top five of tournament scoring with Strome and Huberdeau leading the way with six points and Stone not far behind with four (all goals).
For any team to be successful they must feature a dominant line that has the ability to score almost at will and particularly at even strength. Despite not being looked at as the number one line coming into the tournament, it appears that head coach Don Hay has found a combination that so far looks like one that can carry the team offensively. And with the talent that a team like Canada can throw at you up and down their lineup, having a line that the opposition must focus on stopping will only make them that much harder to in fact, stop.
More often than not it takes more than two games for players who have never played together to develop a chemistry, but the chemistry for this line was there seemingly from the opening faceoff against Finland, and one needs only to watch the goals they scored to understand why they are successful.
It starts with Huberdeau and Strome. The two players were both top-five picks in 2011 NHL Draft and are very similar in talent and the way in which they utilize it. They both are tremendously gifted offensive players who possess the ability to hang on to the puck and wait for the play to develop before making a pass that might not lead directly to a goal, but one that eventually could.
While Huberdeau and Strome are no slouches in the goal scoring department themselves, playing with a guy like Stone has made it a lot easier for them to take on the role of fasilitator.
Stone is the brawn of the line but he is much more than someone who just bangs bodies and skates up and down the wing. The Ottawa Senators prospect has shown a unique understanding of where to be on the ice in order to receive those aforementioned passes from his playmaking linemates, and then use his strong stick and hands to put the puck past the goalie.
This combination of skill, smarts and strength was too much for the Finns to handle and left the Czech’s with no answer as well.
The line’s potency will likely not be needed against an overmatched Denmark squad tonight, but in the final Pool A showdown against the U.S. and then into the elimination games, the trio will likely need to deliver if Canada hopes to recapture their coveted gold medal.