EDMONTON, Alberta | There’s no greater complement from Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals star was talking about the Oilers’ “kid” line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle when he offered it up.
“I watch the video and first line is pretty sick,” Ovechkin said.
That would be accurate. That top Edmonton line drew much conversation from Washington players and coach Bruce Boudreau over the past couple days, something that excites the young players.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Hall said. “Certainly our line, we’re having a lot of fun playing together so far. It’s only been a few games. We’ve got to keep bringing it every night, but certainly it’s fun to be mentioned in that category of lines to watch out for.”
Some teams just think about the idea of throwing three rookies together and seeing if they spark each other. Oilers coach Tom Renney, still in rebuilding mode, had nothing to lose and did it.
It has worked, as Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle and Hall have combined for 22 points. In that order, they’re Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on the team in scoring.
“The team chemistry is working very well for them, so that’s why they’re playing together,” Caps defenseman Roman Hamrlik said. “I don’t think the ages really matter. Sometimes you see one older guy, two young guys, but I guess they’re working hard, they compete.”
And, by extension, they draw the hardest matchups. The Caps would love to throw the shutdown pair of Karl Alzner and John Carlson and the third line of Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward out there against the kids Thursday night.
Not getting the last change will make that “very difficult,” Boudreau admitted. But if it happens, the Oilers’ kids are ready.
“Obviously as you keep getting better, teams are going to have to respect you more and match up their top D-pairing against you,” Eberle said. “And we’re all right with that. We’re fine with playing against top D-pairings and checkers.”
If Renney gets a chance to put Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall against the Caps’ third pairing of Jeff Schultz and Sean Collins, the Caps might have to make more changes than they would like.
That’s the kind of respect the Oilers’ top line has drawn with early success.
“Things are working well for them,” Hamrlik said. “Hopefully they’re not going to work out tonight against us.”