When the news came out that Coby Downs was returning to the Battlefords from Omaha of the USHL, everyone knew it would be a big boost for the North Stars.
But just how much can one player add to a team?
Before he had even played a game this season for the North Stars, Downs had a bit of an idea. He joked that reuniting with Layne Young would make for the league’s ‘deadliest duo.’
Now, with less than 20 games left in the 2016-17 season, it’s clear he was on to something.
Young currently sits second in league scoring with 50 points, while his linemate Downs is in sixth with 45 points despite missing the first month of the season. The only teammates in the league with more combined points are Notre Dame’s Ben Duperreault and Adam Dawe (98 combined points) and Flin Flon’s Greyson Reitmeier and Rylee Zimmer (96 points) but because of Downs’ 11 missed games, the North Stars duo is tied with the Hounds duo for the best combined points-per-game at 1.44.
Both Downs and Young are each currently on a double digit point-streak as well.
Young has seven goals and 15 assists during his current 13-game point streak while Downs has four goals and 14 assists during a current 10-game point streak.
“I try not to think about [the streak] too much,” Young said. “Just play my game and hopefully it keeps working out.”
But it’s not just separate streaks, as the two are constantly involved in setting each other up for scoring chances. In fact, of Young’s 16 goals he has scored this season with Downs as a member of the team, Downs has assisted on 12 of them, or 75 per cent. Young hasn’t quite returned the favour as often, as he assisted on just six of Downs’ 16 goals.
Whether they finish or not, their chemistry on the ice is something to marvel at, after playing together for parts of last season and all of this season.
“It seems we’re at the stage now where we always know where the other guy is on the ice. We always know what they’re going to do,” Young said. “It makes things a lot easier when you know where someone is going to be all the time.”
Because of that awareness, it’s gotten to a point where on ice communication happens without either of them actually saying anything to one another.
“If he’s going to do something, then I’ll work off of what he’s doing or we just kind of read each other,” Downs said. “We don’t even really need to talk about it anymore.
“After a year of playing with each other, you’re just going to build more and more chemistry.”
For both players, the personal success comes second to winning, which has been happening at a torrid rate. Battlefords has won 25 of their last 27 games and have a 12-point lead on first in the SJHL.
Downs believes the team success hasn’t been because of all their individual numbers piling up.
“We’re probably the best defensive team in the league,” Downs said.
“When we work from our D-zone out, we’re definitely a more successful team,” Young said. “Instead of running and gunning, we focus on the D-zone first and things seem to happen better that way.”
Nathan Kanter is battlefordsNOW’s sports reporter and voice of the Battlefords North Stars. He can be reached at Nathan.firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @NathanKanter11
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