TORONTO - You can give this round of the NHL Draft Derby to John Tavares.
He scored the opening goal on Friday and was one of Canada's best players during a 4-2 victory over Sweden in an exhibition tuneup for the world junior championship.
His performance was particularly notable because it came against a Swedish team that includes defenceman Victor Hedman, who is seen as Tavares's main competition to be the No. 1 pick at the NHL draft in June.
That provided a nice sideshow to the first game the Canadian team has played since wrapping up its selection camp in Ottawa earlier this week. So far, so good.
Cody Hodgson had a goal and two assists while Zach Boychuk and Jamie Benn also scored for Canada.
Oscar Moller and Hedman replied for Sweden.
It didn't take very long to see the differing fortunes of Hedman and Tavares.
The big defenceman was rocked on his first shift by Canada's Dana Tyrell, who is about 10 inches shorter than the six-foot-seven Swede. Hedman looked a bit wobbly as he skated to the bench after being checked.
Things were going much better for Tavares. He opened the scoring at 4:22 on a power play after Hodgson skated the puck around the net and set him up. That set off the kind of excited goal celebration that you don't see at many exhibition games.
It was symbolic of the energy the team had all evening, perhaps drawing off a vocal crowd at Air Canada Centre. The building wasn't full but it was louder than it is on many nights when the Maple Leafs are here.
The fans gave Canadian coach Pat Quinn a nice ovation when he was introduced prior to the game. The former Maple Leafs coach was back in the stadium for the first time since he was fired in 2006.
Quinn must have been happy with what he was seeing on the ice, particularly in the second period when Canada outshot the Swedes 20-9. Hodgson, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, put Canada ahead 2-0 at 10:02 by tipping a point shot behind goaltender Mark Owuya.
The game would probably have been out of reach heading to the final 20 minutes if not for Owuya's play.
Moller increased the chances of a comeback by scoring with 29.4 seconds left in the middle frame. Don't be surprised if the Los Angeles Kings winger is a major factor once the world junior championship gets started - he showed his skill in beating goalie Chet Pickard with a long-range backhander from the right circle.
Boychuk gave Canada the breathing room it needed by scoring at 4:32 of the third period. He beat Owuya after the puck bounced off the endboards and onto his stick. Benn scored a breakaway goal at 13:03.
Hedman rounded out the scoring with a short-handed goal at 19:36.
The Canadian team will play two more exhibition games in Southern Ontario before opening the world junior tournament on Dec. 26 against the Czech Republic. The hosts are going for a fifth straight gold medal.
Notes: Dustin Tokarski started in goal for Canada and stopped all eight shots he faced ...Tavares and defenceman Ryan Ellis are the only Canadian players that haven't been drafted by an NHL team ... Ellis is the youngest player on the Canadian team and will wear a full facemask in the tournament ... Quinn coached the Maple Leafs when the team moved to the Air Canada Centre in February 1999. He received a video tribute during the first period ... Los Angeles Kings forward Oscar Moller was in the Swedish lineup.