The United States and Canada West each earned byes into the semifinal round of the 2013 World Junior A Challenge after winning their preliminary-round games this week at Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.
The semifinals will be held Friday with the championship game slated for Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. The United States, winner of four of the past five tournaments, is the defending gold medalist.
The U.S. had won three consecutive tournament titles from 2008 to 2010 before Canada West ended the run in 2011. The Americans regained their crown last year.
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards, who has been in Yarmouth this week to view the prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft, checked in with his three stars from Wednesday. For more of Edwards' insight into those top players competing at the tournament, read this week's "Prospector Files."
First star: Karson Kuhlman, RW, U.S.: Kuhlman, who plays for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, scored a pair of goals to help lead the United States to a 4-2 victory against Canada East. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound right wing, who is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2014-15, has three goals (two power-play goals) and four points in two games for the United States. He is a "C"-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2014 draft.
"He was on the top line and very effective every shift," Edwards told NHL.com.
Second star: Nick Schmaltz, C, U.S.: Edwards has liked what he's seen from the slick-skating power forward from the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. The 5-11.5, 172-pound center, who is committed to the University of North Dakota, leads all scorers at the tournament with six points (two goals, four assists) in two games. He had two goals and two assists in an 8-3 victory against Russia on Tuesday and two assists in a 4-2 win against Canada East on Wednesday. Schmaltz, they younger brother of Jordan Schmaltz, a 2012 first-round pick (No. 25) of the St. Louis Blues, is an "A"-rated prospect on Central Scouting's preliminary list.
"He showed great puckhandling and playmaking ability," Edwards said.
Third star: Jordan Piccolino, G, Canada East: Even though he has been in net for both losses for Canada East, the 6-0.5, 157-pounder has performed admirably. Piccolino, who is in his second season with the Cornwall Colts of the Central Canada Hockey League, is 0-2-0 with a 5.00 goals-against average and .853 save percentage. He turned away 24 of 27 shots against the United States on Wednesday and has faced 68 shots in two games.
"Had he not played as well, the game [against the United States] would have been a rout," Edwards said.