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3 things learned at Day 5 of World Juniors –



Day 5 results

United States 7, Czech Republic 0

Canada 10, Switzerland 0

Russia 7, Austria 1

What we learned on Day 5

Checking line fuels United States

The line of center John Farinacci (Arizona Coyotes), left wing Brett Berard (New York Rangers) and right wing Bobby Brink (Philadelphia Flyers) has been a pleasant surprise for the United States during its consecutive shutout wins.

The energy line, which started a game together for the first time in an 11-0 win against Austria on Saturday, was in top form in a 7-0 victory against the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Brink scored two goals, Berard had an assist and two shots on goal, and Farinacci had three shots and won nine of 13 face-offs for the United States (2-0-0-1, six points).

“Farinacci wins draws, Berard hunts down pucks and Brink is gritty — and when Brinker is gritty, he’s really effective,” United States coach Nate Leaman said. “They’re a good forechecking line but can get to a lot of pucks, and when they have the puck, they’ve done a good job keeping it simple and attacking the net.

“They’re not scared and that’s probably an attribute I missed in the beginning; they’re fearless. They pay the price and I like the karma of that line right now.”

In addition to creating offense, Berard, Farinacci and Brink have provided toughness down low and in the trenches for the U.S., which clinched a berth in the quarterfinals by defeating the Czech Republic.

“I think we just try and keep it simple,” Brink said. “We’re not going to try to complicate things and know that we’re all fast and hard-working. We’ll get in on the forecheck, and I think that we’ve just been playing to each other’s strengths and not trying to be something that we’re not. That’s helped us be really successful.”

Canada’s Byfield showing maturity

Quinton Byfield (Los Angeles Kings) said scoring his first two goals for Canada at the World Junior Championship was a big relief.

Byfield, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, entered Canada’s game against Switzerland on Tuesday having scored no goals in nine career WJC games. He scored six points (two goals, four assists) in a 10-0 win and is third in tournament scoring with seven points (two goals, five assists) in three games.

“Not playing hockey for 8-9 months (due to the coronavirus) … it affects you a little bit and I just had to ease myself back into it,” Byfield said. “I finally found my footing and am just enjoying it. Everything just kind of happened (Tuesday). I think me and [forward Jakob Pelletier] had a good connection on some goals; we were getting the bounces.”

The line of Jack Quinn (Buffalo Sabres), Byfield and Pelletier (Calgary Flames) combined for 11 points (four goals, seven assists) against Switzerland.

Byfield was the youngest player on Canada’s roster when it won the tournament last year and is again the youngest player on this year’s roster.

Despite his age, Canada coach Andre Tourigny said the 18-year-old center has proven to be a great student of the game.

“He’s really coachable and he wants to do what’s right,” Tourigny said. “It started right from the get-go in Red Deer (Alberta) at selection camp. I told every returning player that I’d be hard on them and demand more from them than any other. Right from the first practice, I was on [Byfield] in a sense of demanding a lot, and he responded well. He paid attention when we asked certain things — managing the puck in a different way and making some adjustments on the defensive side of the puck.

“He’s a more mature man than last year, is easier to coach and really receptive. I think last year as a 17-year-old, it can be a tough situation. But even if he’s the youngest guy in the team this year, he’s really easy to coach.”

Matthews tweets Zegras

Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) is gaining quite the following as the leading goal-scorer at the World Junior Championship.

The United States forward, who scored five points (two goals, three assists) in the 7-0 win against the Czech Republic, has even impressed a few former U.S. National Junior Team standouts, including Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who congratulated the 19-year-old on his effort via his Twitter account on Tuesday with a simple message: ‘zegras niceeeeee with it.’

Tweet from @AM34: zegras niceeeeee with it 🇺🇸😤

“That’s pretty cool,” said Zegras, the tournament scoring leader with 10 points (five goals, five assists), said when told of Matthews’ tweet. “I know a bunch of guys in our locker room look up to him and obviously what he’s done for USA Hockey, so that’s definitely pretty cool and something I’ll remember for a while.”

Matthews scored 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 12 WJC games (2015-16). He led the tournament with seven goals to help the United States to a third-place finish in 2016.

Zegras also is tied for second with Doug Weight (1991) on the U.S. all-time list with 14 career assists in eight WJC games. Weight scored 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in seven games at the 1991 WJC. Forward Jordan Schroeder (2008-10) ranks first with 20 career assists in 19 games.

“That goes to show that I’m playing with some really good players, because without a goal-scorer on the other end of the line … it’s my job,” Zegras said. “I’m playing with some very good players and they’re putting the puck in the back of the net from me.”

On tap for Day 6

All games on NHL Network in U.S., TSN and RDS in Canada

Slovakia vs. Finland (2 p.m. ET ) — Finland (2-0-0-0; six points) needs a win to keep pace with Canada (3-0-0-0; nine points) for the top seed in Group A. Finland has been led offensively by captain Anton Lundell (Florida Panthers), who has three points (two goals, one assist) and averaged 16:42 in ice time in two games. Defensively, Ville Heinola (Winnipeg Jets) leads Finland in average ice time (24:20) and Topi Niemela (Toronto Maple Leafs) leads the team in scoring with four points (one goal, three assists). Slovakia (1-0-1-1, four points) lost 4-3 in overtime to Germany on Monday.

Germany vs. Switzerland (6 p.m. ET) — Germany captain Tim Stuetzle (Ottawa Senators) scored two goals and had an assist in an overtime win against Slovakia on Monday and has five points (three goals, two assists) in three tournament games. The 18-year-old has averaged 26:24 of ice time for Germany (0-1-0-2, two points), which has had to use the same nine forwards and five defensemen in its three Group A games because several players were in quarantine. Germany’s best finish at the WJC was fifth in 1981 (as West Germany). Switzerland (0-0-0-3, 0 points) is last in Group A and has been outscored 15-1.

Sweden vs. Russia (9:30 p.m. ET) — Russia (2-0-0-1, six points) can clinch first place in Group B with a victory but may be without forward Yegor Chinakhov (Columbus Blue Jackets), who is doubtful after sustaining a lower-body injury in the first period of a 7-1 win against Austria on Tuesday. Sweden (2-0-0-0, six points) defeated Austria 4-0 on Monday to extend its winning streak in the preliminary round to 54 games. That streak includes 47 wins in regulation, three in overtime and four in shootouts. Sweden’s most recent preliminary-round loss was 3-2 in overtime to the United States on Dec. 31, 2006. Sweden will play the United States (2-0-0-1, six points) on Thursday.

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World Junior Championship predictions

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Group B preview

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Penny Oleksiak back to lead Canada in Tokyo pool



Penny Oleksiak, the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympics, will lead a Canadian swimming team eager to build on their efforts in Rio de Janeiro at next month’s Tokyo Games.

Swimming Canada unveiled a 26-member squad (16 women, 10 men) on Thursday that is a mix of experience and youth that officials hope is capable of improving on the six medals won in Rio, the country’s best haul in the pool since the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

“I think the mix of veteran leaders and new faces is awesome,” said Kylie Masse, a bronze medallist in the 100 metres backstroke in Rio and one of 10 returning Olympians. “That’s kind of how sport works, there are always older and younger athletes, and it’s a great dynamic to have.”

Leading the charge at the 2016 Rio Games was Oleksiak, who became Canada’s youngest Olympic champion winning gold in the 100m freestyle as a 16-year-old, while also grabbing silver in the 100m butterfly and two relay bronze.

The stage is set for a new star to emerge in Tokyo in 14-year-old Summer McIntosh, who edged Oleksiak in the 200m freestyle at the trials and breezed to victory in the 800m free.

At the other end of the experience and age spectrum is 37-year-old Brent Hayden, who came out of retirement to earn a spot on his fourth Olympic team, becoming the oldest Canadian Olympic swimmer in history.

Bronze medallist in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, Hayden clinched his spot with a win in the 50m freestyle at the Canadian trials that wrapped up on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Sinclair to lead Canadian women’s team in her fourth Olympics



Christine Sinclair, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder, was named to her fourth Olympic squad on Wednesday and will headline a Canadian roster at the Tokyo Games that features a mix of veterans and youth.

Led by Sinclair, whose 186 goals for her country are the most by a female or male soccer player worldwide, Canada won medals at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and was the only nation to make the podium in both competitions.

“I am looking forward to doing whatever I can to help take this team back to the podium and make history again,” said Canadian captain Sinclair. “Our team is in a good spot, we are excited, we are hungry and we are ready to go.”

The 18-player roster features 12 members of the squad that competed at the 2016 Rio Games while a quintet including Vanessa Gilles, Jayde Riviere, Julia Grosso, Adriana Leon, and Evelyne Viens will be making their Olympic debuts.

Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan travelled to Rio in 2016 as an alternate.

Canada will kick off their Tokyo 2020 journey when they face Japan on July 21 and continue Group E play against Chile on July 24 and Britain on July 27.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Which of the Canadians Picked in the 2021 NFL Draft Will Thrive This Season?



It was a good NFL Draft for Canadian players in 2021.

Some four stars from north of the border were selected by NFL franchises in the free agency pick ‘em, and that is tied as the highest number of Canadians drafted in the 85-year history of the event.

Of course, the hope is that these young talents are more than just filler and roster depth, but can any of the quartet make the breakthrough into the big time?

Here’s a look at which of the NFL’s newest Canadian additions can shine in 2021/22.

Jevon Holland

The defensive back was the number 36 pick in the Draft by the Miami Dolphins, who beat off a number of rivals in the hunt for the Coquitlam native.

A versatile defender, Holland is a former Jim Thorpe Award semi-finalist thanks to his exploits in the NCAA back in 2019 with the University of Oregon.

He sat out the 2020 campaign, but representatives from dozens of NFL teams were in town to watch Holland go through his paces at the Oregon Pro Day.

The 21-year-old is following in the footsteps of his father Robert, who turned out for the Detroit Lions, and he is expected to force his way into the starting line-up at the Dolphins. And, who knows, maybe Holland could go all the way in his first season, with Miami priced at +2500 in the Super Bowl 2022 American football odds.

Benjamin St-Juste

When you’re six foot three, 205 pounds and still able to run 40 yards in 4.51 seconds, it goes without saying that you have the physical credentials to succeed in the NFL.

Benjamin St-Juste is the man that can, and he will bolster the roster at a Washington Football Team that will be looking to improve upon their playoff showing in 2020.

The 23-year-old may only have been a third-round pick, but he comes with a burgeoning reputation thanks to a successful time at the University of Minnesota. An All-Big Ten special mention in 2019, more than 50 NFL recruitment personnel attended the college’s pro day – largely to catch a glimpse of St-Juste going through his paces.

Both Brian Gutekunst and Jon Robinson made the trip but, in the end, it was Washington who snapped up the powerhouse from the Draft.

Chuba Hubbard

The third Canadian to be drafted in 2021 was Chuba Hubbard, who became the first Canadian running back to be selected from the Draft in 25 years.

It’s the Carolina Panthers who have taken a chance on the 22-year-old and with his credentials, you can see why. Hubbard finished eighth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy in 2019 after a stellar campaign – he served up 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, an NCAA best. He was named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

While running backs are not the hottest of properties in the Draft, Hubbard provably has the talent to cross into the end zone with regularity – the Panthers might just have got their hands on an unheralded gem here.

With these three Canadians taking the step up to the NFL, the future of the sport north of the border looks in safe hands.

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