TORONTO – Defenseman Seth Jones said he has always believed the North American 23-and-under team could win the World Cup of Hockey tournament even while others viewed his team as a gimmick.
“That’s why we are here,” Jones said. “We aren’t backing down from anyone. We are young, and not as experienced as other teams. But I think we have the skill to win it.”
That theory is gaining more traction, especially after the young NHL stars chewed up Finland 4-1 in a preliminary-round game Sunday night. The North Americans overwhelmed the Finns with speed, creativity and 43 shots on goal.
“They are the youngest players in the tournament, but they have been the limelight and the spotlight their whole careers,” said North America coach Todd McLellan.
Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames), Jonathan Drouin (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) scored for the North Americans.
“They really took it to us and showed their individual skill,” Finland goalie Pekka Rinne said.
This was only the first test for the young squad. The Russians,…