Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle, fiddle…..
Team Canada head coach Steve Spott couldn’t resist – or perhaps better said he couldn’t deny.
So extraordinary has been the play, right from the opening of training camp, of 17-year-old Jonathan Drouin of Ste-Agather, Quebec, that hours before the pivotal Canada-Russia game Spott moved the youngster up to the top line.
The rising star of the Halifax Mooseheads will now play with captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele.
Jonathan Huberdeau, the 19-year-old captain of the Saint John Sea Dogs, will move down a line to play with Ryan Strome and Ty Rattie.
Huberdeau, who also played last year in Calgary when the Canadian juniors had to settle for bronze, has been solid but hardly outstanding in the three games leading into Monday’s important match against Russia.
“A couple of changes up front just to see if we can create a different look,” said Spott shortly before the game.
“Look,” of course, is a euphemism for “scoring punch” – something Canadian junior teams have not been particularly proficient in since Jordan Eberle’s heroics in Ottawa brought Canada its last junior gold medal four years ago.
“A little more five-on-five offence,” Spott added. “We’ll see how it works out.”
Drouin, Spott said, “has proven to us that he’s capable of playing with players like Ryan and Mark, and we’re going to give him the opportunity.”
Scheifele, who also was on last year’s team and has already played NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets, says the 17-year-old Drouin has amazed him with his rapid adjustment to the higher level of hockey.
“So skilled, so smart,” Scheifele said of his new linemate, “his hands are incredible. He’s way ahead of his time.”
Spott will have forward Boone Jenner in the lineup for the first time. Jenner had previously been sitting out a suspension given to him back in North America but honoured here by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Jenner will centre Brett Ritchie and Phillip Danault in what will be primarily a checking line.
“A forecheck presence,” is how Spott described Jenner’s debut. “We want to be an aggressive team. He’s hard, he’s a strong man, he plays physical, he protects the puck down low.”
Spott is also hoping his re-designed second line, with Rattie, one of Canada’s best players so far, also getting a promotion, will give them team some “explosive power,” as well.
“If not, well, we’ll make adjustments during the game.”