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World Juniors 2017: Slovakia vs. Canada, Toronto, Tuesday, Dec. 27

Bolts prospects play well, don’t make the scoresheet in yesterday’s Team Canada victory.

Hockey: World Cup of Hockey-Team Czech Republic vs Team Europe Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Switzerland vs. Czech Republic

Time: 1 p.m. Eastern

Location: The Bell Center, Montreal

Watch: TSN 1/3/4; Listen: SiriuxXM NHL Network Radio Ch. 91

Russia vs. Latvia

Time: 4:00 p.m. Eastern

Location: Air Canada Center, Toronto

Watch: NHL Network, TSN 3/4; Listen: SiriuxXM NHL Network Radio Ch. 91

Denmark vs. Finland

Time: 5:30 p.m. Eastern

Location: The Bell Center, Montreal

Watch: TSN 1; Listen: SiriuxXM NHL Network Radio Ch. 91

Canada vs. Slovakia

Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern

Location: Air Canada Center, Toronto

Watch: TSN 1/4; Listen: SiriuxXM NHL Network Radio Ch. 91

Recap: Canada vs. Russia

Yesterday at the WJC, in front of a tournament-high crowd of 18,312 fans, Team Canada won its opening match against Team Russia, 5-3. Tonight Canada faces off against Slovakia (who did not play on the first day) for the top-billing show at 7:30 PM on TSN.

Canada’s strength on the powerplay helped them push past Russia, with three goals coming from the man advantage, giving them a current ranking of best powerplay in the tournament. Tyson Jost, Dylan Strome, Matthew Barzal, and Nicolas Roy all contributed to the score sheet, with team captain Strome sending two powerplay goals past Russian goalie Ilya Samsonov. Sportsnet has a good article breaking down the powerplay system here.

Team Canada’s goaltender, Carter Hart, saved 14 of 17 shots for an SV% of .824 in the victory. Russia’s Samsonov was tested hard, saving 32 of 37 shots for an ironically better SV% of .865 in the loss.

Saima’s thoughts on the match

The four Lightning prospects may not have shown up on the score sheet, but they made their presence known on the ice. Anthony Cirelli played the role of fourth line center - part of the “energy line” for Team Canada. His line was aggressive on the forecheck and spent the game antagonizing Team Russia. Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal was a force of nature last night, centering a line featuring two young Bolts in Taylor Raddysh and Mathieu Joseph.

When asked about what made his line so successful, Barzal praised the play of his two wingers. “Joseph’s such a fast little buzzsaw out there. And then Raddy’s obviously a goal scorer - really smart and works the corners. Again, easy for me. They’re always in the right spots and always supporting me on the ice.” [TSN]

Raddysh continues to prove that he is a hard working player, winning puck battles along the boards to help generate more offensive opportunities. Joseph registered three shots on goal and was adept with handling the puck. Mitchell Stephens also generated a couple of shots, but he plays on the Canada’s presumptive top line with Dylan Strome which has yet to generate substantial chemistry.

All in all, it was a good showing from the Lightning prospects. Aside from Stephens, this is the first trip to World Juniors for these young Bolts. They held up well under the glaring lights of a home ice opener against storied rival Russia. That bodes well for their continued development in this tournament and their futures in Tampa.

Preview: Canada vs. Slovakia

Team Slovakia is not one of the stronger teams of the tournament. In the pre-tournament exhibition, they lost to Finland by a score of 8-1. They might be the perfect team for Canada to play on the second night of a back-to-back.

Goaltender Adam Huska is Team Slovakia’s strength. Drafted in 2015 by the New York Rangers, he is playing in his second U-20 match. He currently plays for the NCAA’s University of Connecticut, with a SV% of .926.

Defenseman Erik Černák, second-round selection of the LA Kings in 2015, might give Team Canada some trouble with his long reach and his strength. Despite being only 19, this is his fourth U-20 competition. Winger Radovan Bondra, currently playing with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, has good skating and puck handling skills, and is competing in his third U-20.

Regarding Slovakia, Strome noted to the WJC reporter that Canada was already mentally prepared: "Slovakia won bronze two years ago. They have some good players, including one guy from Erie who’s a huge defenceman in his fourth World Juniors [Erik Cernak], so they’re a good team."

Slovakia is most proud of 17-year-old Adam Ruzicka. Currently playing for Steven Stamkos’s old OHL club, the Sarnia Sting, Ruzicka has 22 points in 32 games played, and is draft-eligible this coming year.

Will a tired Team Canada manage to out-shoot and out-skate a rested Slovakian team? Most likely. Bolt prospect Connor Ingram will have his tournament debut tonight, so at least the most important defender on the team will be fresh.

Team Canada

Forwards

Pierre-Luc Dubois - Dylan Strome - Blake Speers

Mathieu Joseph* - Mathew Barzal - Taylor Raddysh*

Tyson Jost - Nicolas Roy - Julien Gauthier

Dillon Dubé - Anthony Cirelli* - Mitchell Stephens*

Michael McLeod

Defenders

Thomas Chabot - Philippe Myers

Jake Bean - Noah Juulsen

Kale Clague - Dante Fabbro

Jeremy Lauzon

Goaltenders

Connor Ingram*

Carter Hart

* Tampa Bay Lightning prospect

See Team Canada’s stats here

Team Slovakia Roster

Forwards

Marek Hecl, Radovan Bondra, Marian Studenic, Marek Sloboda, Boris Sadecky, Adam Ruzicka, Oliver Pataky, Martin Andrisik, Miroslav Struska, Milos Roman, Filip Lestan, Patrik Osko

Defenders

Martin Bodak, Oliver Kosecky, Michal Roman, Martin Fehervary, Samuel Hain, Erik Cernak, Andrej Hatala, Mario Grman

Goaltenders

Roman Durny, Matej Tomek, Adam Huska

See Team Slovakia’s stats here