Johnny Gaudreau scored his third and fourth goals of World Cup pre-tournament action Sunday, and he’s tied for the exhibition scoring lead with four points in two games.
The World Cup pre-tournament schedule still has a handful of games remaining, though it doesn’t appear North America winger Johnny Gaudreau needs much more time to get his game — or his hands — into mid-season form.
In North America’s 7-4 defeat of Europe Sunday, which was the second straight pre-tournament victory over the European squad for the young stars, Gaudreau put on display the hands that has made him one of the most exciting players to watch over the past two campaigns.
Midway through the third period, Gaudreau cut down the left wing and used his two teammates driving to the net as decoys. As European defenseman Luca Sbisa went down to block a potential pass, Gaudreau pulled the puck across his body and nearly spun Sbisa into the ice. Gaudreau, with time and space, took one more stride toward the net and slipped a backhand right between goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s legs:
Gaudreau’s marker was his second of the contest and his third of the pre-tournament, and he’s tied with teammate Nathan MacKinnon and Sweden’s Patric Hornqvist for the pre-tournament scoring lead with four points through two games.
It’s hard to imagine Gaudreau’s performance could be such that he earns even more negotiating power in his contract talks with the Calgary Flames, but if Gaudreau dazzles once the actual tournament gets underway, there’s a possibility the Flames have next to no choice but to ink the 23-year-old to the reported $8-million annual salary he’s seeking.
As for Sbisa, well, he better use the next few tuneup games — and the rest of the tournament — to prepare for players like Gaudreau. It might even be worth going over Gaudreau’s highlight-reel goal a few times, because Gaudreau’s Flames will have five meetings with Sbisa’s Canucks this coming season.
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