"I knew that I could make it here," said Madden. "I was a little bit under everyone's radar and when I got to Northeastern University, I showed what I could do and got rewarded for it."
His reward was playing a top six role with the United States on Wednesday night and Madden rewarded his team right back, picking up the primary assist on the game-winning goal, while his line got better and better as the game went on. The Canucks' third-round selection at the 2018 NHL Draft played on the second line, saw power play action and was sent out three times in the final four minutes to help the United States hang onto a 2-1 victory over Slovakia. Not bad for a kid not even invited to the summer camp.
All four Canucks prospects were in action on Day 1 of the 2019 World Juniors, which also saw goaltender Michael DiPietro collect more points than Quinn Hughes…
Canada (14) - Denmark (0)
Michael DiPietro (CAN): 14 saves, 1 assist, shutout
DiPietro didn't have to be great, obviously, but he was sharp on a night that his teammates in front of him blew Denmark out of Rogers Arena and only surrendered 14 shots in total, half of them coming in the opening period.
The nerves that he had in pre-tournament action appear to be gone as playing on the big stage looked normal for him, even in a game where he made as many saves as his team scored goals.
There was the breakout pass to Nick Suzuki. DiPietro hit him in stride all the way at the far blueline and then Suzuki would make a nifty pass to Morgan Frost who banged home his third of the game 1:50 into the middle stanza. DiPietro picked up an assist on the play.
There was also the right pad save on Phillip Schultz after the Victoria Royals forward was awarded a penalty shot 1:42 into the 3rd period.
Ian Scott will take over the goaltending duties on Thursday night when Canada takes on Switzerland, but DiPietro is expected to be right back between the pipes on Saturday against the Czech Republic, which should provide some tougher competition.
Next up: vs. Switzerland (Thursday, 5:00pm PT, TSN 1/4/5)
United States (2) - Slovakia (1)
Quinn Hughes (USA): 1 shot on goal
Tyler Madden (USA): 1 assist, 3 shots on goal
With the game knotted at 1-1 in the early stages of the 3rd period, Madden and his linemates, Evan Barratt and Noah Cates, went to work in the Slovakian zone.
"I just walked up the half wall and heard (Evan) Barratt call for it, so I cycled it down to him," said Madden. "I got to the net and he ripped a pretty nice backhander top shelf. It was pretty awesome. Obviously your first point is special, but I was happy for the team because we fought to come back, and I thought we deserved to win that game."
That would be the game-winner. At times, Madden's line looked like a first line for the United States as they got stronger and stronger as the game went on.
"I think our line is very good together," said Madden. "We all play a similar style of hockey, very gritty, not afraid to go into the corners or in front of the net. We make plays for each other and work hard."
Quinn Hughes didn't hit the scoreboard, but was noticeable all night. His puck handling skills and spin-o-rama's wooed the fans in attendance.
"I thought we did pretty good today," said Hughes. "Obviously we have to get to another level, so for us, we just need to keep building every day. By the end of the tournament we will be a completely different team."
The United States will have a day off, followed by a game against Kazakhstan, before closing out the round robin against Sweden and Finland.
Next up: vs. Kazakhstan (Friday, 7:30pm PT, TSN 3/5)
Sweden (2) - Finland (1)
Toni Utunen (FIN): 1 shot on goal
It was a tough opener for Utunen and Finland as they went up against a Swedish team that hasn't lost a preliminary round game in over 11 years, a span of now 45-consecutive victories.
"We could have been much better," said Utunen. "We didn't have the puck as much as we wanted, and we couldn't get any rhythm. We couldn't find those open spaces to get good scoring chances."
Every time Finland would get some momentum, they would run into penalty problems, taking seven minor penalties on the night, opposed to just three by Sweden, which scored both their goals on the man-advantage.
"We had way too many penalties," said Utunen. "In these games, you can't take that many penalties because every team is so good. We don't want to be paying the price."
The Canucks fifth round pick in 2018 didn't look out of place despite being the second youngest defenceman on his team. He logged over 17 minutes of ice time, including over three minutes of shorthanded time, had a couple hits and a blocked shot. It was a good World Juniors debut, but he thinks he can bring more to his game.
"I could have been better," Said Utunen. "I was a little bit to careful at the start. I need to trust my puck handling skills and skate more. I think if I can do that, I will be better."
There is no time to dwell on the loss for Utunen and Finland as they are right back at it on Thursday against Kazakhstan.
Next up: vs. Kazakhstan (Thursday, 7:30pm PT, TSN 5)