Buffalo Sabres prospect Sam Reinhart (2014, first round) notched a pair of assists Friday night as host Canada opened the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship with an 8-0 pounding of Slovakia.
Reinhart’s line with Anthony Duclair (NYR) and Max Domi (ARI) entered the event with a fair amount of buzz after combining for 13 points in three pre-tournament tilts. The trio didn’t disappoint by churning out quality chances on virtually every shift en route to producing three goals on the night.
Reinhart earned his first helper at 4:52 of the opening frame when he accepted a pass in his feet on the way to the net. He kicked the puck to his backhand and slid a quick pass to a streaking Robby Fabbri (STL) for Canada’s first goal of the game.
With Canada firmly in control, the heady playmaker added another assist at 16:14 of the second period when he sent a sharp outlet pass to Domi, who made a nice move to the inside before connecting with gorgeous wrist shot to give Canada a 6-0 lead.
Fabbri racked up four points (2+2) to lead all Canadian scorers. Nic Petan (WPG) logged a goal and two assists while Duclair, Brayden Point (TBL), Nick Paul (OTT) and Jake Virtanen (VAN) rounded out the scoring.
Stud 2015 NHL Draft-eligible prospect Connor McDavid failed to record a point despite firing a team-best six shots on goal in the victory. Fellow draft-eligible forward Lawson Crouse picked up one assist for Canada, who moves on to face Germany on Saturday.
Sabres prospects Hudson Fasching and J.T. Compher (2013, second round) were kept off the score sheet, but contributed with strong two-way efforts as the United States opened preliminary-round play with a 2-1 shootout victory over defending champion Finland.
Fasching played a key role for the U.S., supplying energy with linemates Dylan Larkin (DET) and Tyler Motte (CHI) to help the Americans settle down after falling behind 1-0 just 1:22 in. The University of Minnesota wing proved hard to handle on the boards and especially beneath the goal line, where he used his 6-foot-2, 207-pound frame to protect the puck en route to driving Team USA’s possession game.
Fasching’s work on the penalty kill nearly paid off late in the first period when he took a Larkin feed into the slot for his best chance of the game. He finished with two shots on goal.
Compher was effective in limited minutes as the fourth line centerman between Miles Wood (NJD) and John Hayden (CHI). He made a handful smart defensive plays in front of his own net and contributed to a successful penalty kill late in the action-packed third period.
Following the game, Team USA coach Mark Osiecki referred to Compher as one of a few players who stepped up with in-game leadership as the Americans survived their first test of the tournament.
Highly touted 2015 draft prospect Jack Eichel picked up a pretty backhand assist on an Alex Tuch (MIN) tally and added a shootout marker to guide the American attack. Draft eligible Mikko Rantanen supplied the lone goal for Finland when he banked a shot off 2016 draft eligible Auston Matthews from behind the USA net.
Team USA gets a day off before continuing round robin action on Sunday versus Germany.
In Group B action, Victor Olofsson (2014, seventh round) was unable to connect on two excellent second period chances as Sweden defeated the Czech Republic 5-2.
Minutes after the MODO product missed on a nice redirect from the slot, Olofsson again came up empty when he couldn’t control a Jens Looke feed while staring at a wide open net. Olofsson, who finished with two shots on goal and an even rating, skated primarily on Sweden’s fourth line with Christoffer Ehn (DET) and University of Minnesota winger Leon Bristedt. He also chipped in on the second power play unit.
Adrian Kempe (LAK) scored twice to lead Sweden while Looke, William Nylander (TOR) and Jacob de la Rose (MTL) supplied singles. Jakub Vrana (WSH) connected for both Czech markers.
Sweden returns to action Saturday against Denmark, who earlier in the day went down to the wire in a 3-2 shootout loss to Russia.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website, sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@sabresprospects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.