Team Canada has gotten off to a piping hot start at the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, kicking off the tournament's preliminary round with two wins in as many days. The Canadians followed up a 4-2 win over Finland on Tuesday with a 6-0 drumming of Slovakia on Wednesday night.
It was a strong showing from Canada's young squad, as they jumped out to an early lead and never really let their foot off the gas. The Canadians heavily outshot the Slovakian squad, 52-20. It was forward Sam Steel who opened the scoring with a goal less than four minutes into the game, but the majority of the damage on the scoreboard was done in the final 40 minutes of competition.
The Canadians scored twice in the second frame, then added three more goals in the final period to put an exclamation point on the victory.
Team Canada is looking to follow up a silver medal performance in last year's WJC with another strong showing this year, and they've looked pretty promising early on while fighting through some injuries and adversity on their blue line. As for the Slovaks, this kicks off a pretty daunting starting to the preliminary round for them. They'll face the United States on Thursday night, then Finland over the weekend; both of those matchups will be tough.
Which NHL prospects came up big?
The best highlight of Day 2 at the World Juniors belonged to 19-year-old Canadian forward Jordan Kyrou, who was a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2016. During the second period of Canada's win over Slovakia, Kyrou channeled his inner Harlem Globetrotter and victimized a poor defender with an absolutely silly bit of stick-work. If the sick hands weren't enough to get Blues fans excited, he led all players with three points on the night.
Vancouver Canucks prospect Jonah Gadjovich (2017 second-round draft pick) earned Player of the Game honors thanks to his two goals in the win over Slovakia. (He also had an assist in the opener on Tuesday.) The 6-foot-2, 209-pound forward has a good combination of size and speed that allows him to be an impact player at both ends of the ice. He certainly has a knack for finding the back of the net, as the 19-year-old scored 46 goals for the OHL's Owen Sound Attack last season.
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Taylor Raddysh also added a power play goal on Wednesday, adding to the two points he had against Finland on Tuesday. Rounding out the scoring for Canada was Sam Steel and Maxime Comtois, who are both prospects in the Anaheim Ducks system.
Dallas Stars fifth-round pick and Colgate University goalie Colton Point made his first appearance of the tournament and got the start in net for Canada, stopping all 20 shots he faced for the shutout win.
Colton Point after getting a shutout in his first start for Canada: “I’ve been a long shot my whole career. This is something I’ll be able to tell my kids about, playing in the World Juniors for Canada.”— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) December 28, 2017
The unsung heroes of the night for Canada may have been defensemen Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche prospect) and Victor Mete (Montreal Canadiens prospect), who both logged over 25 minutes of ice time each to help their their squad get by with a shorthanded defensive corps. Makar had two assists, while Mete added one of his own.
What else happened in the preliminary round?
There was one other game on the schedule besides Canada's matchup against Slovakia.
- Switzerland mounted a third period comeback to beat Belarus, 3-2
What happens next in the World Juniors?
Thursday will be a busy day, as four prelim games are set to take place in Buffalo. Team USA returns to action with game against Slovakia, and NHL Network.at 8 p.m. on TSN and
Canada's next game will come Friday when they meet the Americans outdoors at New Era Field in Orchard Park. That game will be broadcast at 3 p.m. on TSN and NHL Network, weather permitting.
The 2018 World Juniors preliminary round continues through Dec. 31 before relegation in January, which precedes the playoffs. Here's a complete rundown of the next wave of games through the end of the year:
Thursday, Dec. 28
- Denmark vs. Finland, 12 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/4)
- Switzerland vs. Russia, 2 p.m. (TSN 3/5)
- Czech Republic vs. Sweden, 4 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/4)
- Slovakia vs. United States, 8 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/4/5)
Friday, Dec. 29
- Russia vs. Belarus, 12 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN3)
- United States vs. Canada, 3 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN)
Saturday, Dec. 30
- Belarus vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/4)
- Switzerland vs. Sweden, 2 p.m. (TSN5)
- Slovakia vs. Finland, 4 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/4/5)
- Canada vs. Denmark, 8 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/4/5)
Sunday, Dec. 31
- Czech Republic vs. Switzerland, 12 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/3)
- Finland vs. United States, 4 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/3)
- Denmark vs. Slovakia, 6 p.m. (TSN2)
- Sweden vs. Russia, 8 p.m. (NHL Network, TSN 1/3)