Nathan MacKinnon showed fans Saturday just why he's considered by some to be the most talented player available for the 2013 NHL Draft.
MacKinnon, who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, had a hat trick as Canada beat Finland 4-0 to win the gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The game was played at Zimny Stadion in Piestany, Slovakia.
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Curtis Lazar also had a goal, and Zachary Fucale stopped all 23 shots as Canada won its fifth straight championship at the under-18 summer tournament, and eighth title in the last nine years.
"That was our best game from start to finish. Everybody bought in," Canada coach Todd Gill said. "Our slogan was, 'I am willing,' and everybody was willing tonight and it showed."
The game was scoreless after one period, but MacKinnon got things going by scoring just 1:14 into the second period. He added a second goal at 11:02 on the power play. Lazar, who plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League and also is considered a top player for this year's draft, made it 3-0 with a goal at 14:43.
"The way the game was going you could just tell that the kids were getting a lot more confident," Gill said. "In my opinion, it was just a matter of time before we started scoring goals. We dominated the second period and it just got better and better, and they were getting tired and their goalie was getting tired so we knew the goals would come."
Canada outshot Finland 22-9 in the second and 44-23 for the game.
Finland had a chance to get back into the game when Canada's Nicholas Ritchie was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check to the head at 2:10 of the third. But Fucale, MacKinnon's teammate in Halifax and also a top prospect for the 2013 draft, held strong.
"He just calms it down," Gill said of Fucale. "He's calm and cool in there, there's no panic to his game. When a shot does get through, he controls rebounds very well."
MacKinnon capped his big day with a 5-on-3 power-play goal at 8:07 of the third period. He finished the tournament with team-highs of five goals and 11 points in five games.
"After killing off a five-minute penalty it gave us an advantage, I think. It sparked the boys," MacKinnon said. "Shortly after that, we had a 5-on-3 power play and some good puck movement and I found a way to finish it off."
MacKinnon said this was a new level of play for him, but believes the experience he gained at the tournament will help him heading into the 2012-13 season with Halifax.
"I've never experienced anything like this before, but it's a great way to start the season," he said.
In the bronze-medal game, played at Thereza Arena in Breclav, Czech Republic, Sweden beat the Czech Republic 2-1.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK