Two of hockey’s biggest nations hit the ice for the first time at the World Junior Hockey Championship and one of the game’s emerging stars got his tournament off on the right foot.
Both Canada and Sweden came away victorious but it didn’t come easy for either team. Latvia provided some pushback by keeping the score close for most of the game before Canada was able to take over. And Switzerland had the Swedes sweating a bit as they attempted a gutsy comeback while taking advantage of some indisciplined play.
However, it was the final game of the evening between Germany and Austria that stole some of the spotlight with a great individual performance and some back-and-forth play.
Here is a look at the three players who stood out from Day 2 at the World Juniors.
3rd Star: Daniel Torgersson
Sweden came into this tournament looking to give head coach Tomas Monten a proper send-off in his final World Juniors behind their bench.
With a roster stacked with some promising prospects, Sweden is looking to fly under the radar and end their gold-medal drought which extends back to 2012. Last year, Sweden saw their tournament come to a disappointing end finishing in fifth place.
Against Switzerland, it looked like Sweden was going to cruise to their first win but their opponent had other ideas nearly erasing a 3-0 deficit. Fortunately for Sweden they were able to hold on for the 3-2 victory.
After both teams were unable to get on the board in the first, Daniel Torgersson got things going for Sweden as a blocked point shot found him in the slot and he made no mistake on a backhander.
Taking a 1-0 lead to the third period, the Winnipeg Jets prospect would find himself in another fortunate spot as his initial pass went off a Swiss player, allowing him to bang it past Noah Patenaude.
Initially, Torgersson started on the third line but earned a promotion to the second line and that provided the offensive spark that wasn’t coming easily against a disciplined Swiss team.
Another player who deserves a shoutout for his performance is Detroit Red Wings prospect Simon Edvinsson who played 26:09 in this game, registered an assist and had three shots on goal.
2nd Star: Connor Bedard, Canada
Coming into the tournament, Canada lost some quality players including Shane Wright, Cole Perfetti, Dylan Guenther and Owen Power. For some countries, that would be a devastating loss but fortunately for Canada, they still have Connor Bedard.
You usually don’t see Canada put a 17-year-old in a top-line role but Bedard isn’t your typical 17-year-old player. The early favourite to go first overall in the 2023 NHL Draft came into the tournament after scoring 51 goals and 100 points with the Regina Pats in the WHL and is not shy of the spotlight.
It was going to be tough for Bedard to match the four-goal game he had against Austria in the final game before the tournament was cancelled in December but against Latvia, the North Vancouver native made his presence felt.
Bedard had many opportunities to pot his first goal of the tournament and was finally able to beat Patriks Berzins with a toe-drag and wrist shot that had some extra zip on it.
Bedard added an assist on Olen Zellweger’s goal and finished with eight shots on net in the game. He certainly could have had more than one goal in this game as he was dangerous nearly every time the puck was on his stick.
While Bedard was the more impactful player in this game, teammate Ridly Greig had the highlight of the night. The Ottawa Senators prospect somehow managed to score with only one hand on the stick and a Latvian defender all over him.
Despite the 5-2 score, this was not an easy game for Canada as Latvia was able to get into the shooting lanes and were playing at a high tempo from start to finish. Canada will be right back in action on Day 3 against Slovakia who will try to bounce back from a tough 5-4 loss to Czechia.
1st Star: Alexander Blank, Germany
Scoring a hat trick is an impressive feat for any player. Scoring a hat trick in a single period is something that makes great players stand out against the rest.
With Germany trailing 2-1 in the second period, Alexander Blank decided to take over the game scoring three unanswered goals to record the first hat trick of the tournament. Blank was clearly determined to step up his game and help Germany avoid going down to an 0-2 start as it took him only eight minutes to get the natural hat trick.
His first goal of the game came off a tip to tie the game at two. He then went back-to-back with a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle on the power play.
His third goal was even more impressive as Justin Volek did a great job to muscle past two Austrian players before setting up Blank with a great feed and the 20-year-old made no mistake.
Unfortunately for Blank, his reward for scoring a hat trick was an errant stick to the face after Luca Auer caught him in the neck area with a follow-through.
For Blank, this isn’t the first time he has carried the offensive workload for Germany as he scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner from an unlikely angle, on Day 1 of the 2022 tournament before it was cancelled.
The Berlin native was not drafted to the NHL.