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Oilers’ Adam Henrique could be the key to unlock Connor Brown’s offence

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Photo credit:Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sean Panganiban
30 days ago
Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch made an interesting lineup adjustment last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He bumped forward Connor Brown to the third line to play with the newly acquired Adam Henrique and Evander Kane. Some may find the move puzzling, as Brown’s zero goals this season may not seem to warrant a promotion from the fourth line.
However, it’s quite a logical move because Henrique and Brown once had incredible chemistry together on a previous Team Canada. That said, it might be worth it for the Oilers to keep them on a line together for the foreseeable future because it’s a low-risk move that has the potential to reap very high rewards.

A Recap of Henrique and Brown’s Dominance Together

Let’s recap how Henrique and Brown clicked together in the past. At the 2021 World Championships in Riga, Latvia, Brown served as an assistant captain on Team Canada, while Henrique captained the inexperienced squad with only a handful of NHL veterans. They had an early setback with a 0-3 start in the tournament. However, they rallied, turned the tide and ultimately won a gold medal.
The turning point came when Team Canada coach Gerard Gallant made Henrique, Brown, and the Calgary Flames’ Andrew Mangiapane the top line before the fourth game, leading to instant chemistry. They wasted little time finding the back of the net in their first game together, with Brown opening the scoring only 22 seconds in, assisted by Henrique. Then, only ten minutes later, Henrique found the back of the net himself, with Brown returning the favour with the helper.
That marked just the beginning of their dominance, as the line continued to shine throughout the rest of the tournament. Team Canada faced Finland in the finals and both Henrique and Brown rose to the occasion. With Team Canada trailing 2-1, Henrique tied it up with just over seven minutes remaining in the game to force overtime, and Brown set up the game-winning goal in OT to win gold.
In ten games, the line of Henrique, Brown, and Mangiapane combined for 38 points. Brown led the entire tournament with 16 points, setting a new Canadian record with 13 assists and Henrique finished tied for third with 11 points. While Mangiapane took home MVP honours for his goal scoring prowess, the trio was named Team Canada’s top three players of the tournament, scoring 15 of Canada’s 28 goals.
So, what does this all mean? The Oilers obviously don’t have Mangiapane on the team and NHL competition is a step above the World Championships for the most part, but for Henrique and Brown, they developed chemistry in a very short span, and it’d be a worthwhile experiment to continue to play the duo together down the playoff stretch to see if they can recapture lightning in a bottle once again.
It’s a small sample size, but against the Penguins, they displayed that chemistry in the first period when Brown fed his linemate a cross-ice pass and Henrique’s shot just grazed the shoulder of goaltender Tristan Jarry. In the third period, Henrique passed the puck to Kane, who fired a pass to Brown on a 2-on-1 chance. Brown re-directed the puck in tight, which was one of his best scoring chances of the season. Overall, he looked much more comfortable and settled with Henrique as his centerman.
Dec 19, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Connor Brown (28) skates against the New York Islanders during the first period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brown has been very close to scoring, and at this point, it’s likely that mental challenges are holding him back. There’s a likelihood of him going into every scoring chance with doubts about his ability to actually score. However, winning a gold medal together was probably one of the best hockey memories for both Henrique and Brown. Perhaps this shared experience can help trigger a mindset switch for Brown and reignite feelings of confidence if they continue playing together, thinking, ‘Hey, I led an entire tournament in points and won a gold medal with this guy as my centerman. I can do this.'”
Moreover, according to Natural Stat Trick, the scoring chances were 4-3 at 5v5 in favour of the trio of Henrique, Brown and Kane against Pittsburgh. Down the playoff stretch and perhaps into the postseason, the forward line up would look similar to the one iced against the Penguins:
Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Hyman
Foegele – Draisaitl – McLeod
Kane – Henrique – Brown
Ryan/Janmark – Carrick – Perry
There’s hardly any risk in experimenting with that personnel on the third line temporarily, and the upside could be huge. Additionally, having Brown beside Henrique instead of Perry, injects more speed onto the line; however, both players could be swapped if the team needs a different look. That said, if the combination of Henrique, Brown and Kane works, the Oilers would have a deep top nine and a grinding third line that would pose as a constant scoring threat in the playoffs. Also, should Brown rack up goals in the postseason, it would somewhat redeem him for the lack of tallies so far.

Troy Stecher Also Won a Gold Medal With Henrique & Brown

As an aside, it’s also worth noting that newly acquired Oilers’ defenceman Troy Stecher was part of the same Team Canada squad as both Henrique and Brown during the World Championships in 2021.
The blue liner played a big part in helping Canada capture the gold medal, playing big minutes with Owen Power of the Buffalo Sabres and Stecher assisted on the game-winning goal in Canada’s quarter finals match against Russia, pulling off a couple slick moves that propelled the Canadians to the semi-finals.
Overall, Edmonton added two players in Henrique and Stecher who have proven in the past to develop chemistry quickly and achieve success in a short timeframe, which should bode very well for the Oilers. Nevertheless, perhaps Brown’s former teammates whom he won a championship with, especially Henrique, might just be the key to kickstart his scoring.

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