It was only 16 months ago that Max Domi, Connor McDavid and Sam Reinhart were at the centre of the hockey world, leading Canada to a home-ice gold medal at
the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
They finished one (Reinhart)-three (McDavid)-four (Domi) in Canadian scoring, all had goals in the gold medal game win over Russia, and took all three
forward spots on the media all-star team.
Now the talented trio is back in red and white, only this time they’re the youngest members of the Canadian contingent at the 2016 IIHF World Championship
Age is just a number, though, and their previous international experiences – all three were part of U17, U18 and U20 in the Program of Excellence – have
made them valuable members of the roster.
“Having gone through the under-18s and then [World Juniors], this is the next step up,” says Reinhart. “When you take a step to the next level, it just
makes it easier to get to the next, and so on.
“But I think we’ve all been brought in here with one goal in mind, so it doesn’t matter where you played the year before or anything like that. It’s about
working together towards the same goal.”
“I think any time you get to represent your country it’s always a good opportunity to move forward,” adds McDavid. “I got a first taste at the under-18s,
then at the World Juniors and now I’m at the worlds, so they’ve all been good stepping stones.”
Domi, McDavid and Reinhart took big steps this season in their rookie NHL campaigns, and it’s their success at the highest level of the game that was the
biggest factor in their selection to Team Canada, not necessarily what they did in Toronto and Montreal.
Sure, familiarity with the Canadian program plays a part, but it’s more of a ‘what have you done for me lately?’
Just look at their NHL numbers – McDavid is a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie after putting up 48 points in 45 games with the
Edmonton Oilers, Domi was second in Arizona Coyotes scoring, and Reinhart ranked third with the Buffalo Sabres.
But as good teammates and good leaders (all three wore the ‘C’ with their respective teams in their final season of junior hockey in 2014-15) do, the trio
understands they may have to play a different role to be successful at the world championship.
“Every guy on the team has a role to play and we’ll all need to respect them,” says McDavid. “But we all need to play the style of game that’s gotten us to
this point and made us successful in the first place.”
And Canada has certainly found success at worlds; last year it broke a string of five consecutive quarter-final losses with a perfect 10-0 run through the
tournament, scoring a record 66 goals to help win its first gold medal since 2007.
While there’s certainly no expectation Canada will reach those offensive heights again, there is an expectation that Canada will again be among the
favourites for gold.
For the young threesome, it’s a chance to try and make history, and get a little experience along the way.
“Coming into the world championship I’m just enjoying the whole experience of being around all these superstars in the NHL,” says Domi. “It’s nice to be
able to learn from these guys and to watch what they do on and off the ice. I’m definitely honoured to be a part of this group.”
It’s a group that has varied backgrounds, both in the NHL and internationally.
It includes Stanley Cup champions (Brad Marchand and Corey Perry) and NHL rookies (Domi, Michael Matheson, McDavid, Calvin Pickard and Reinhart), Olympic
gold medallists (Matt Duchene and Perry) and Team Canada newbies (Chris Tanev).
But the goal is to come together as one, with one singular goal in mind.
“To put it in NHL terms, we are going to have to win three Game 7s to win the championship here,” Reinhart says. “So anything can happen and I think that’s
why we’ve been talking about how we need to get together as quickly as possible.”
And if they do come together, and do win another Canadian gold? Then that terrific young trio will add more gold to their growing collections, and get a
little more terrific.