SASKATOON -- There were more than a few NHL scouts salivating last night at the Credit Union Centre.
Taylor Hall, Team Canada's lone draft-eligible player, gave everyone a glipse of what's to come as he scored a hat-trick and added an assist to lead the Canadians to an 8-2 win over Slovakia.
The victory improved Canada's record to 3-0 at the world junior tournament and sets up tomorrow night's first-place showdown with the Americans.
Hall said he's only got one thing on his mind right now. And it's not how many zeros will be on the first contract he signs this summer.
"I haven't even thought about the scouts yet," Hall said. "My main goal is to win a gold medal, and that will further my hockey career more than anything.
"That's all I'm worried about right now."
Despite pulling off some jaw-dropping moves in the first two games, Hall had been a bit snakebitten and went into last night's tilt searching for his first goal.
"I knew, eventually, if I kept playing my game, the pucks would go in," said the Windsor Spitfires star. "It was a fun night for myself."
Slovakian forward Richard Panik ended Canada's shutout streak at 157:25 when he shovelled a powerplay rebound past Canadian goaltender Martin Jones in the second period.
Martin Bakos also scored late in the third period but it was far too little, far too late against a Canadian team that continues to fill the net almost at will.
Luke Adam, Brayden Schenn, Stefan Della Rovere and defencemen Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Ellis also scored for Canada.
Compared to the 36 seconds it took to score against Latvia, and the 23 ticks it took to find the back of the net against the Swiss, it took Canada an eternity against the Slovaks.
But once they found the range, the Canadians kept coming back for more.
Hall scored through a screen on Canada's first powerplay at the 7:18 mark.
Pietrangelo blasted a shot past Slovak starter Marek Ciliak 21 seconds later.
And Hall scored his second of the night with a perfect shot off the far post. Ciliak, who was beaten on three of the four shots he faced, got the hook and Tomas Halasz went between the Slovak posts.
Adam gave Canada a four-goal cushion five minutes into the middle frame when he picked up a puck in the corner, circled behind the net and scored on the wraparound.
Slovakian forward Matus Rais made a terrible attempt at a dive, spinning around like a top.
But the ref wasn't fooled and called Rais for the dive.
It proved costly on the next shift when Ellis walked in off the point on the powerplay, had all day to tee it up and blew it past Halasz.
Panik converted a powerplay rebound to end Canada's shutout string, but the Canucks responded with two more goals late in the period.
Hall capped his hat-trick with some fancy moves in the slot before depositing a backhander on the powerplay.
He said he can't wait for the New Year's Eve clash.
Hall watched last year's thriller when the Canadians overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat the Americans 7-4.
"It was a great game," Hall said.
"Any time you get a battle between the U.S. and Canada, it's always going to have a lot of heat."