Mason McTavish leads Canada to commanding win vs. Czechia

Mason McTavish scored twice and Kent Johnson pulled off the goal of the tournament to complete Canada's 5-1 drubbing of Czechia on Saturday. (Getty Images)
Mason McTavish scored twice and Kent Johnson pulled off the goal of the tournament to complete Canada's 5-1 drubbing of Czechia on Saturday. (Getty Images)

Canada improved to 3-0 at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship following a 5-1 victory over Czechia on Saturday.

Mason McTavish scored two goals, Kent Johnson scored the goal of the tournament and the Canadians survived a brief scare during the first period.

Here are three takeaways from Canada’s victory.

McTavish is running away with tournament MVP honours thus far

Following Thursday’s 11-1 victory against Slovakia, I wrote that Mason McTavish is too good for this edition of the world juniors, as he’s a near-certain lock to play top-six minutes for the Anaheim Ducks this fall. McTavish followed up with a two-goal performance Saturday, and was the best player on the ice, alongside linemate Connor Bedard.

McTavish and Bedard have been overwhelming their opponents in three consecutive games, and you can see their casual mastery of the game here, where the Ducks prospect emerged on a breakaway, perhaps made one move too many, and still tucked the puck through the five-hole of Czechia goaltender Tomas Suchanek.

Throughout the tournament, McTavish has created separation with his speed, and his elite shot is giving inferior opponents some pause when he creates shooting lanes for himself. Bedard’s phenomenal speed and ability to weave through traffic is also playing into McTavish’s skill set as well. This duo has been the on-ice story of the tournament thus far, and McTavish’s only competition for the MVP could be coming from his draft-eligible linemate.

Michigan Man pulls off The Michigan

Kent Johnson, who plays for the University of Michigan, pulled off "The Michigan" as Canada fought back from an early 1-0 deficit in the first period.

Afforded way too much space by the Czechia defenders, Johnson saw an open lane, put the puck onto his stick, and lassoed it into the top corner of the net, lacrosse-style. Whoa, baby, this is the goal of the tournament, and though you could cynically detract marks given the inferior competition, this will always be cool to watch.

Similarly to McTavish, Johnson could be graduating to the NHL next fall, after being selected fifth-overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He almost certainly won’t be able to pull off this type of goal with the same level of ease in the NHL, but we have to appreciate beauty where it emerges, and we’ll bet that we won’t see a goal this pretty for the duration of the tournament.

Canada remains untested, but that could change against Finland

Three games in, and there’s been little to criticize from an on-ice perspective about this Canadian side. Bedard and McTavish have proven unstoppable, and Canada’s overall superiority, both in skill and depth, has sometimes made it a difficult side to evaluate.

Canada will likely face its first real test on Monday against Finland, who pummeled Latvia 6-1 and defeated Czechia 4-3 in a shootout. This isn’t the most dangerous Finnish side in recent memory, but Joakim Kemell and Aatu Raty have provided a solid 1-2 punch offensively, with captain and Maple Leafs prospect Roni Hirvonen bringing some balance to its lineup.

We’re two days away, but so far, these games have amounted to glorified scrimmages. Canada may get lulled into a false sense of security, and we’ll have to see if it comes out of the gate firing against the first quality squad it has faced during the round robin.

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