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I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see the fuzzy-cheeked collection of players known as Team North America get after it at the World Cup of Hockey with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers leading the way.
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While that might not be a take you expect from somebody of my vintage who has been accused from time to time of yelling and telling kids to stay the hell off my lawn – it’s true – TNA, a collection of the best and brightest 23-and-under players from the NHL, is the most intriguing team at the tournament for me.
As somebody who keeps tabs on the Oilers, McDavid is obviously the main reason for that intrigue, but when I look up and down the roster that has been put together by GM Pete Chiarelli and will be coached by Oiler bench boss Todd McLellan, I not only see the future of the NHL but a line-up that might just be good enough to win the tournament.
Based on the lines that played together at the TNA skate today – the Tweet from Amanda Stein of TSN 690 that got my attention is here – McLellan will have a ridiculous amount of speed and skill in his top nine to throw at opposing teams, and it’s not like the blue line and goaltending on Team Baby Face is chopped liver, either.
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THROUGH THE GATE

#TeamNA practice is underway in Montreal! Follow our story at https://t.co/Vpmjlmk7Ab pic.twitter.com/xWCaHSgyHe
— Team North America (@TeamNA_WCH) September 6, 2016

Here’s what the forwards looked like at the TNA practice today:
Jonathan Drouin-Connor McDavid-Mark Scheifele
Johnny Gaudreau-Jack Eichel-Brandon Saad
Auston Matthews-RNH-Nathan MacKinnon
Dylan Larkin/J.T. Miller-Sean Couturier-Vincent Trocheck
Even without injured Sean Monahan (Trocheck subs in for him in the bottom six), that’s a whole lot of pizzazz and firepower up front, led by McDavid. The lines will be tweaked over the duration of the tournament, of course, but this is the forward group that McLellan has at his disposal.
Back on the blueline, it’ll be Aaron Ekblad, Shayne Gostisbehere, Seth Jones, Ryan Murray, Colton Parayko, Morgan Rielly and Jacob Trouba. The goaltenders on TNA are John Gibson, Connor Hellebuyck and Matt Murray.
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As you’d expect, the biggest question about this group is lack of experience, relative to other line-ups in the tournament, like Team Canada. Said Chiarelli: “The biggest thing is the youth. We’re talking about how to play in certain zones; how to leverage our best assets, which we feel is the young legs. The speed. But you don’t really have the Godfathers. Guys who, when stuff comes down, can settle everyone down.”

WATCHING CONNOR

Godfathers? No. Yes, experience, or lack of same, is going to play into the things. It always does. Team Canada, not exactly a bunch of lunch-bucket guys, has plenty of it, as does every other roster in the tourney. That said, the kind of raw talent TNA brings to the table with McDavid and the rest, tends to speed things along the learning curve rather nicely. McDavid is Exhibit A in that.
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Given all the fanfare that accompanied him into the league last season, McDavid didn’t have benefit of being able to sneak up on anybody as a rookie. His name was circled on the white board of every opposing team he faced and he still exceeded expectations – at least mine – with 48 points in 45 games. On a team challenged to score, McDavid’s 1.07 PPG was third-best in the entire league. So much for easing his way into things.
The way I see, a tournament like the World Cup of Hockey is exactly the kind of spotlight a player as talented and competitive as McDavid, still only 19, will grab by the throat and excel in. It’s the best of the best, the kind of measuring stick a player like McDavid, who has been measured since before he was a teenager, relishes. 
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I don’t know if TNA can overcome their collective lack of experience and parlay all that speed and skill into winning the World Cup of Hockey, but I’m not going to bet against them. I can’t say with certainty McDavid will top the list of tournament scorers, given all the big marquee names we’ll see, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit. Kids these days. It’s going to be fun.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

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