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WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: JAN. 2

by Kris Baker / Buffalo Sabres
Sam Reinhart

Sam Reinhart continued a masterful 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on Friday, scoring his fourth goal of the tournament and generating several other opportunities as Canada steamrolled into the semifinal round with an 8-0 shutout of Denmark. The victory sets the stage for a Sunday tilt with Slovakia (8 p.m., NHL Network/TSN) for the right to play in the gold medal game the following day.

Canada’s top line of Reinhart with Max Domi (ARI) and Anthony Duclair (NYR) stormed out of the gates with a pressuring first shift. The hosts would be forced to juggle their lines after losing Robby Fabbri (STL) due to an ankle injury in the game’s fourth minute, but the productive trio remained intact and continued to carry the play until the final whistle.

Reinhart gave Canada a 2-0 lead at 15:17 of the first period when, seconds after losing a face-off, he drifted to the slot and accepted a pass through two sets of skates for the quick forehand finish. The marker gives Reinhart a team-leading nine points, tying him with Swedish forwards Oskar Lindblom (PHI) and William Nylander (TOR) for tops in the tourney. He continues to lead the event with a plus-10 rating, while his 61 percent success rate at the face-off circle is ninth among all skaters. On top it all, he’s been an effective penalty killer.

The star of the night, though, was 2015 draft prospect Connor McDavid, who broke out with a goal and two assists to earn Canada’s Player of the Game. At times toying with the opposition with his slick stick skills, McDavid provided a highlight reel play midway through the second period when he stole a puck near his own blue line, sped into the Danish zone and hit the brakes at the edge of the crease before slipping the puck into the open side of the net. After going without a point in Canada’s opener, the sensational 17-year-old has collected six points in his last four games.

Canada’s other 2015 draft prospect, Lawson Crouse, added a goal and an assist in the victory. Crouse’s first of the tournament came at the end of a hard-working shift when he made a nifty toe drag down low and quickly snapped a shot past Georg Sorensen to give Canada the 3-0 lead.

Curtis Lazar (OTT) paced the Canadians with a pair of goals. Nick Paul (OTT), Brayden Point (TBL) and Nick Ritchie (ANA) added singles to round out the scoring.


Fasching

In the day’s first quarterfinal, Hudson Fasching and J.T. Compher (2013, second round) each produced one shot on goal as the United States saw their medal hopes dashed with a 3-2 loss to Russia.

The United States was bit by the penalty bug early and often, surrendering a power play goal just 2:31 into the opening frame on an afternoon that saw them commit eight minor infractions. The skilled Russians, who took six penalties of their own, made the U.S. pay twice with the man advantage, including their second power play tally at 1:41 of the third period that proved to be the game-winner.

As was the case throughout the preliminary round, Fasching’s line with Dylan Larkin (DET) and Sonny Milano (CBJ) was the most consistent American unit. Fasching came out buzzing on his very first shift, dishing the puck off to Larkin and powering his way to the net as the centerman was stopped on a quality scoring chance. He’d later take an offensive zone hooking penalty in the 13th minute, but he proved to be a factor the rest of the way with his strength on the puck, pressure around the Russian goal and detailed three-zone diligence.

Fasching finished his second World Junior experience with three points (1+2) and a share of the team lead with a plus-seven rating en route to being named one of the United States’ Top Three Players of the tournament.

Compher

Compher started the game with a shift on the penalty kill as the Americans continued to rely on his gritty play in tough situations. The Illinois-native skated with a sense of urgency in his fourth-line role, using speed to advance pucks and finish his checks while working smart to protect the center defensive lane. On his first shift of the second period, Compher put his skating game on display with an end-to-end rush through the middle of the Russian defense, but was unable to get his shot off.

In the final minute of the middle frame, Compher was slow to get to his feet after finishing a hit near the U.S. bench. He left the ice hobbling, but was able to return for a regular shift in the third period.

Compher ended the tournament without a point, producing 10 shots on goal and an even rating while winning 23 of his 47 face-offs.

Despite the disappointing exit, the American trio of 2015 draft prospects earned valuable experience that should pay off as they return to their home clubs.

Captain Jack Eichel picked up an assist on an Anthony DeAngelo (TBL) power play goal to finish the tournament with four points (1+3). He was defended well in the five games, but was still able to attack the net to the tune of 21 shots on goal, good for second on the team. The performance didn’t damage his draft stature, but he certainly came up short of his own expectations as he pursues the honor of the top overall selection.

University of Michigan freshman Zach Werenski added the second U.S. marker with a snap shot high blocker side at 8:56 of the third period. A likely a first-round pick come June, Werenski has been a steady riser all season long, and his two-way play throughout the tournament only improved his draft stock.

Like Werenski, Noah Hanifin showed NHL scouts that his fluid skating and capable physical style should seamlessly translate to the next level once his days at Boston College are complete. He finished with two assists, eight shots on goal and a plus-three rating in the five games while assuming the large void left by the injured Steven Santini (NJ). He’s big, strong and quick, representing a package that should see him become the first defenseman taken at the draft.


Olofsson

Victor Olofsson (2014, seventh round) recorded a power-play assist as Sweden advanced to the semifinal round with a 6-3 doubling of Finland. The helper was Olofsson’s first point of the tournament.

Olofsson served as the extra forward at even strength, but was able to add value at the point on the power play much like he is used in the SHL with MODO. Working the high left side, Olofsson fed a pass to Sebastian Aho (2015), who in turn pushed the puck to Lucas Wallmark (CAR) in the right circle for the quick release through traffic at 4:50 of the middle frame.

Sweden moves on to face Russia in the first semifinal Sunday (4 p.m., NHL Network/TSN) at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.


For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s web site - 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.
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