After winning a gold medal for Canada at the world hockey championships, Todd McLellan will coach the 23-and-under Team North America at next year's World Cup.
The Edmonton Oilers coach got the call because of his international and NHL experience, his familiarity with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and his ability to get through to young players.
"He's able to capture the attention of players," Team North America and Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said. "What I see in Todd is he makes the players ask questions and I think that's important for engagement and I think that's important in a shorter period of time."
The longtime San Jose Sharks coach is getting a taste of coaching a young group with McDavid and the Oilers this season. Edmonton's average age is just over 26.
With Team North America, McLellan is expected to have McDavid, Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres and other 23-and-under Canadian and American stars like Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadiens and Brandon Saad of the Columbus Blue Jackets. In seeing what McLellan did with Sidney Crosby and a stacked Canadian roster at the worlds, Chiarelli believes the 48-year-old can do the same next fall.
"When you have real good players who are used to being on the top two lines of their teams and to put them in there and have them believe this is where they belong and why, that's the challenge," Chiarelli said by phone Friday. "Anyone who's had success on the international format that's what they're able to do because you're getting all the stars and you're putting them in spots they're not used to playing."
Hockey Canada hasn't yet named its coach for the tournament, though Mike Babcock could return after gold medals at the Vancouver and Sochi Olympics. The Chicago Blackhawks' Joel Quenneville, Los Angeles Kings' Darryl Sutter and New York Rangers' Alain Vigneault are among the other possibilities.
John Tortorella, a former coach of the Rangers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks, will be behind the bench for the U.S., and former Oilers coach Ralph Krueger will fill that role for Team Europe.
Joining Chiarelli and co-GM Stan Bowman on Team North America's management staff are directors of player personnel Pat Verbeek of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Paul Fenton of the Nashville Predators, special assistant to the GMs Adam Graves of the Rangers and director of operations Ryan Jankowski from Hockey Canada.
"I've seen Ryan over time and have worked with him just through Hockey Canada and have seen him when he was working in the NHL," Chiarelli said. "Always impressed with him."
Chiarelli was impressed enough by McLellan that he hired him to coach the Oilers after several meetings in Prague during the world championships. After one training camp and a few regular-season games, McDavid is on board with McLellan, who should be his coach at the World Cup.
"I know he's going to do a great job with it," McDavid told reporters in Edmonton. "If I'm lucky enough to be a part of that team, there's no one I'd rather play for than him."
The World Cup of Hockey takes place Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016 in Toronto.