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Point leads Canada past Czech Republic in exhibition

by Aaron Vickers / NHL.com

CALGARY -- Coach Dave Lowry asked those returning from a gold-medal finish at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship to be leaders during Canada's National Junior Evaluation Camp this week.

Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) took him literally.

Point had two goals and three assists to lead Canada to a 7-1 win against the Czech Republic on Tuesday at WinSport's Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park.

"He wants us to work hard and to set a pace," Point said. "I think as a group we're trying to work our hardest and lead by example. You want to be a leader, but you definitely want to take care of your game first and then try to lead. I just tried to do that tonight."

Point had 38 goals and 87 points in 60 games as captain of Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League last season. In seven games with Canada at the 2015 WJC, the Calgary, Alberta, native had two goals and two assists.

He's one of five players eligible to return from Canada's 2015 gold medal-winning team, the first to medal at the tournament since 2012. Forwards Jake Virtanen (Vancouver Canucks), Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues) and Lawson Crouse (Florida Panthers) and defenseman Joe Hicketts (Detroit Red Wings) also are eligible for a second stint with Canada.

But Point isn't taking anything for granted more than three months away from selection camp in December.

"I just want to try to make the team right now," Point said. "Obviously, once you're there, then you can start picking roles, but I'm just trying to be one of the 13 forwards. Any player would like to play big minutes and be the guy, but right now I'm just trying to make the team."

Lowry expects that group, Point included, to lead Canada as the 2016 tournament nears.

"Those are the expectations, right?" Lowry said. "Those guys have gone through the process of winning and knowing what it takes and how hard it is to win at this tournament. We want to establish that early, and when your returning players are leading the charge it goes a long way for the whole group."

Point did just that. Tied 1-1, he helped Canada explode for four second-period.

The 19-year-old, one of three alternate captains for Canada in the game, helped set up Virtanen at 4:09, then provided the screen for Haydn Fleury (Carolina Hurricanes) to beat Czech goaltender Vitek Vanecek (Washington Capitals) with a shot from the point five minutes later.

Point converted a pass from Travis Konecny (Philadelphia Flyers) for his first goal of the game at 13:14, then set up Brandon Hickey (Calgary Flames) for a tap-in on a 2-on-1 rush with four minutes remaining in the period.

Point scored his second goal of the game at 13:22 of the third period, taking a cross-crease pass from Konecny and wrapping it around Vanacek's outstretched glove.

"It's nothing new from Brayden Point," said Virtanen, who had two goals and an assist. "The guy is just a world-class player. He can put pucks in the net. He's shifty. He hits guys. He does it all. Tonight he had a great performance. Great for him for doing that tonight."

Rourke Chartier (San Jose Sharks) also scored for Canada, and Konecny had three assists. Mackenzie Blackwood (New Jersey Devils) made 26 saves in the win.

Filip Chlapik (Ottawa Senators) scored the lone goal for the Czech Republic, and Vanacek made 27 saves.

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