What happens when a team has three skilled forwards that are within five years of the USA’s legal drinking age? Easy question. Kid line! A “kid line” isn’t an official NHL term at all, but fans started using the term to talk about a line with young players (usually rookies) on a team. The term first came into play in the 1930’s and is still used today. Here’s a list of some of the five most memorable “Kid Line” combinations in the NHL, from its origins to how it is used today.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
Made up of Charlie Conacher, Harvey “Busher” Jackson, Joe Primeau (1930’s)
The first group of players to be referred to as “The Kid Line” were these three Toronto Maple Leafs legends. When they were first put together, Primeau was the oldest at 23 years old, while Conacher and Jackson were both 18. All three of them grew up in the city of Toronto, and Conacher and Jackson were born there. Their coach at the time, Conn Smythe (yes, that Conn Smythe, the guy with the trophy named after him) was the man who put the line together. It was one of the main reasons why they won the Stanley Cup in 1932 and went to the Stanley Cup Finals four more times over the next six years. All three members of this line are in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and they even have a children’s book written about them, simply titled “The Kid Line.” (I wanted to add a video here like I’m doing for the other groups, but obviously YouTube didn’t exist in 1930, so here’s a picture!)
4. Edmonton Oilers
Made up of Adam Graves, Joe Murphy, Martin Gelinas (1989-90)
Although they are not talked about as often as the original Leafs kid line, the next iconic group of players comes from another part of Canada. The Edmonton Oilers’ group was made up of Adam Graves, Joe Murphy, and Martin Gelinas. When the players first came together, Graves and Murphy were 21 years old, and Gelinas was only 19. One of the boys’ most memorable games came in mid-December 1989. Though it was a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks and the team’s first loss in nine games, Graves put up a hat trick. The most surprising thing about this “kid line” is the fact that everyone still remembers them. This Oilers team had a huge number of talented players, Mark Messier among them. Meanwhile, these kids who seemingly didn’t have a chance were one of the best parts of Edmonton’s Stanley Cup win in 1990.
3. Edmonton Oilers
Made up of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall (2011-16)
While this line wasn’t necessarily the most successful, they definitely left a mark on the city of Edmonton. They’re also good candidates for the “where are they now?” segment. Back in the early 2010’s (I know, so very long ago), these three players were probably the best that the Oilers had to offer. They had chemistry and played fairly well together, but hit a wall shortly after the 2011-2012 season began. Though the line was split apart, the players have since been driven even further apart. To kick off the 2016 offseason, the Oilers sent Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils in an even, one-for-one deal in exchange for Adam Larsson. Then, this past summer, Edmonton sent Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome, another straight-up, player-for-player deal. Then there was one… we salute you, RNH. So,rest in peace to the 2011 Oilers “kid line.” You were fun while you lasted. At least we got some funny videos out of it.
2. Montreal Canadiens
Made up of Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk (2013-16)
Then the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Michel Therrien, was very excited to get this line rolling. The trio of Lars Eller, Brendan Gallagher, and Alex Galchenyuk shined in nearly every game in 2013. They had great chemistry and spent a lot of time tipping in each others’ deflected shots. In one game in February of that year against the Flyers, the line scored two of the team’s four goals, both coming in the third period. As a trio, they had 11 shots out of the Habs’ 34. After this year, though, the Canadiens would definitely see more of these three players. Eller was with the team up until last season, notching more than 20 points in all but his first season with Les Habitants. Gallagher and Galchenyuk (or “Gally Squared”) are both still with the team and making big impacts. Though Galchenyuk’s name is in many trade discussions, both players have the potential to stay with the team for the rest of their careers and continue their success. And to think it all started with a “kid line.”
Honorable Mention: Toronto Maple Leafs
Made up of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander (2016-?!)
This one isn’t exactly a line, which is why they’re an honorable mention and not actually on the list. Matthews, Marner, and Nylander are rarely ever playing together, but they’re a huge weapon for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Matthews and Nylander are occasionally put together, while Marner has been a staple in a trio with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. Nylander is seen as more flexible, with Matthews being glued to Zach Hyman the majority of the time. They’re like a “kid line” spread out among all four lines on the team, a three-headed monster that could strike at any time. The awesome part is that the three players shared a rookie season last year, the 100th anniversary of the franchise. It gives a new meaning to their “100-001” slogan. Although the original “kid line” was a huge part of history, it’s time to make way for the future and, you guessed it, #StandWitness!
1. New York Islanders
Made up of Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson
Okay, I may be biased, but this line was everything to me. This line existed the year before my favorite player, Ryan Strome, had his best career year, so I have a lot to thank it for. But it’s on this list for other reasons as well. John Tavares has always been the highlight for the Islanders since he came to the team, but there were nights when he would be held scoreless and the “kid line” would strike once, even twice. All three players struggled to get roster spots during their first year with the team, but once they got there, they played phenomenally together. From Strome’s smooth transition from centerman to winger to Lee’s natural scoring touch to the way Nelson worked perfectly with both of them, the line always saw success. While the line was ultimately broken up, and the three “kids” were shuffled around the lineup, they were reunited for a few games in February 2015, and it paid off. Lee scored, assisted by Nelson, just 37 seconds into their first game back together. Of course, Strome was traded to the Oilers for Eberle, and Nelson has failed to live up to expectations for basically all of his career. However, Lee has been a consistent star since then, sometimes passing Tavares for point totals. (On a more, personal note, I just really enjoyed those videos and gif sets with “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by The Offspring and “The Kids” by B.O.B. that came along with these players joining forces.) The best part is, the Islanders have a sort of “new kid line” forming this season, with Mathew Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, and Anthony Beauvillier joining the team full-time this season. They’re currently not on the same line, but who knows what the future can hold?
Do you have a favorite “kid line?” Let us know by tweeting us: @PuckItUpBlog.
To read our latest piece centered around a rookie, Ryan Strome’s brother, Dylan, click here!