After a quiet start to his run at the world junior men’s hockey championship, Quinton Byfield’s six-point performance paced Canada to a 10-0 blanking of Switzerland on Tuesday.
The No. 2 pick in October’s NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings scored twice and assisted on four goals.
Byfield is one of six players returning from the Canadian team that claimed world junior gold in Ostrava, Czech Republic in January.
Byfield didn’t score in Ostrava, so he was pleased to end his drought.
“Definitely a big relief,” Byfield said. “Not getting a goal last year definitely hurt a little bit, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything. We still came out with a gold medal.
“It’s nice to get a goal and contribute as much as I can, so definitely happy with that.”
Byfield’s linemate and Calgary Flames prospect Jakob Pelletier scored twice and had an assist for Canada (3-0) on Tuesday.
Connor McMichael, Dylan Cozens, Philip Tomasino, Ryan Suzuki, Cole Perfetti and Kaiden Guhle also scored for the defending champions.
Canadian goaltender Devon Levi posted a 15-save shutout.
Swiss goalie Noah Patenaude of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs stopped 42 shots in the loss, his first start of the tournament.
Canada caps the preliminary round Thursday against Finland (2-0) in what is expected to be the toughest test yet for the host team.
A Finland win over Slovakia on Wednesday would set up a battle for top seed in Pool A on New Year’s Eve.
The United States (2-1) shut out the Czech Republic 7-0 in a Pool B game Tuesday, which dropped the Czechs to 1-2.
The top four teams in each pool advance to the quarterfinals on Jan. 2, followed by the semifinals Jan. 4 and medal games Jan. 5.
Byfield had one assist in his first two tournament games in Edmonton, and didn’t score in a pre-tournament game against Russia.
His last meaningful game before Canada’s selection camp was with the Sudbury Wolves back on March 8 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Ontario Hockey League season.
“Definitely in camp, not playing hockey for eight to nine months definitely affects you a little bit,” Byfield said.
“I had to ease myself back into it almost and finally found my footing. I’ve been playing the same way. Everything just kind of happened tonight.”
Canada scored three goals on six power-play chances Tuesday and held the Swiss scoreless on four chances with a man advantage.
Switzerland (0-3) has mustered one goal in three tournament games. A loss to Germany on Wednesday and the Swiss are out of contention for the quarterfinals.
“In the zone we have some good plays, but the breakout is struggling,” said forward Simon Knak, who played for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winter Hawks last season.
“We need to change something for tomorrow against Germany. It’s going to be a pretty important game for us. We want to go to the quarterfinals, so we need to score some goals. It’s finally time.”
Defenceman Braden Schneider returned to Canada’s lineup after serving a one-game suspension for checking an opposing player in the head.
Winger Dylan Holloway was also back after sitting out Sunday’s 3-1 win over Slovakia with an upper-body injury.
After a sluggish first period, Canada’s offence kicked into high gear outshooting Switzerland 38-12 and scoring nine goals over 40 minutes.
The Canadians outshot the Swiss 14-3 in the first period, but didn’t generate a lot of quality scoring chances and couldn’t produce a goal from a two-man advantage of one minute 20 seconds.
Canada attacked the Swiss net harder in the second period and was rewarded with rebound goals.
Byfield scored twice in the third period snapping a Jack Quinn feed by Patenaude and also tipping in a Jamie Drysdale shot from the point for a power-play goal.
The six-foot-four forward from Newmarket, Ont., and his teammates were all smiles on Canada’s bench after Byfield’s first goal.
“Once I scored that, I got a lot of laughs and congrats,” Byfield said. “They’re happy for me.
“That shows how good my teammates are here and how good our chemistry off the ice is.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation announced Tuesday there were no new cases of COVID-19 among players and tournament personnel.
Five German players were released from quarantine Tuesday, but one player from that team remains in isolation until Jan. 4.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the World Juniors.