Like the majority of Halifax Mooseheads fans, the line of rookie Nikolaj Ehlers, Brent Andrews and Andrew Ryan, intrigues Cam Russell.
Of course, the Mooseheads general manager is impressed with the trio’s point production. They are the top three scorers on the team, starting with Ehlers with 28 points, then Ryan (26), and Andrews (23).
But it’s about more than that. There’s the satisfaction he gets from the chemistry they share, their ability to draw the best out of each other.
“The line has good speed, good size and good skill,” said Russell. “You have such a nice combination of everything and they really compliment each other.
“Ehlers has a lot of skill. He’s not a big guy but he plays a very strong game, he’s very strong on the puck. Brent has good speed, good hands and he’s tenacious down low. Andrew Ryan has great hands and great finish and moves well for a big guy.”
About a third of the way into the season, Russell is encouraged by a lot, from Darcy Ashley’s offensive outburst (22 points in 11 games played this season), to the subtle improvements he sees in the team’s 10 rookies, who are adjusting to new systems and the rigors of a grueling schedule.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey early in the season. We’re pleased where we are right now. We have a lot more work ahead of us. We’re trying to find the right chemistry, the right line combinations. It’s a continuing process of developing players.”
Boasting a record of 14-8, the Mooseheads currently sit atop the Maritime division, six points ahead of the slumping Charlottetown Islanders.
But Russell stopped short of calling his team’s early success a surprise.
“We looked at our team a couple of years ago and we felt we were going to have more than just one strong year, more than one year of being competitive….
“Our coaching staff, they’ve done an extremely good job for the past three years.”
There has been plenty of good luck mixed in, such as the return of Jonathan Drouin in late September. After being cut by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the CHL’s MVP has recorded 23 points in 12 games, tying him with Andrews for third in team scoring.
But Russell isn’t resting easy. Nor is he ruling out player moves during the Christmas trade window.
“You ever know. We’ll evaluate. Anything could happen but we’re pretty pleased. We like our players, our young players in the midget ranks. There’s no desperate need right now.”
The Herd is back in action at the Metro Centre against the Moncton Wildcats on Friday at 8 p.m.
Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax