Five games, five wins. Led by Patrick Kane, the United States has impressed so far at the ice hockey world championship in Denmark.
The U.S. opened with victory over Canada, the tournament favorite seeking a third title in four years and captained by NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid
Chasing its first medal at the tournament since bronze in 2015, the 5-4 win over Canada in a penalty shootout set the pace for the U.S. in Group B, followed by victories against host Denmark (4-0), Germany (3-0), Latvia (3-2 in OT) and South Korea (13-1).
The decision to make Kane captain after a disappointing season with his Chicago Blackhawks has paid off.
The 29-year-old star forward last played at the world championships in 2008, his first season in the NHL and also the last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs. In the meantime he won three Stanley Cup titles with the Blackhawks and was in the U.S. team at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
“It’s a huge honor to represent the United States of America, the greatest country in the world,” Kane said.
He has proved a leader on ice, scoring three goals and adding nine assists in the first five games at the championship.
Kane was also key to other players being keen to join the team.
“His influence was as a magnet to attract players,” U.S. general manager Bill Zito said.
The team includes game-breakers such as forwards Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, Anders Lee of the New York Islanders, Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers and Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames. Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets has been the team’s leading scorer at the championship with five goals.
But there’s also promising young talent, such as defenseman Quinn Hughes, a top 10 prospect in the 2018 NHL draft.
“Lot of good players, lot of young guys on this team, so it’s been a fun team to be around,” Kane said.
Kane’s Chicago teammate Alex DeBrincat, who is on the national team after scoring 28 goals in his rookie season with the Blackhawks, praised Kane’s leadership qualities.
“He wants to be the best, he’s always out there to be the best player on the ice,” DeBrincat said. “For me, it’s taking that mentality and just using it. Everyone wants to be the best but some guys want that so much more and he’s one of those guys.”
Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy and Nashville Predators forward Nick Bonino have joined the team to strengthen the roster after the elimination from the NHL playoffs.
With a quarterfinal spot all but ensured, the U.S. faces Norway on Sunday and Finland on Tuesday in their remaining Group B games.
“The most important game is the next one, so we’ll look to continue improving as we get set for Norway,” head coach Jeff Blashill said.