Germany thrashed Japan in their Pyeongchang 2018 qualification tournament opener ©IIHF

Germany thrashed Japan as three final ice hockey qualification tournaments for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics began today.

The Germans, who missed out on the Sochi 2014 Games, eased to a 5-0 success in Latvia's capital Riga.

Seven National Hockey League (NHL) players were in the German line-up and they needed less than four minutes to open the scoring.

Brooks Macek made no mistake in front of the goal after a fine pass from Leon Draisaitl.

A second goal arrived on the powerplay before the end of the first period as Florian Schutz deflected a shot past Yutaka Fukufuji.

Tobias Rieder added the third goal shortly into the second period before Tom Kuhnhackl added some extra gloss to the scoreline.

Schutz added a fifth on the rebound before the final period passed by goalless.

Three qualification tournaments have begun ©IIHF
Three qualification tournaments have begun ©IIHF

"Most of the NHL players were already with us at the World Championship except for two who are new but we know each other and it’s great for German hockey they can play here with us,” Schutz said.

"It’s noticeable that they’re playing at the highest level."

Hosts Latvia were also in ominous form as they demolished Austria 8-1.

In Group D at the Minsk Arena in Belarus, Slovenia were also in cruise control mode as they brushed aside Poland 6-1.

Belarus made short work of Denmark in front of a home crowd, winning 5-2.

Group E in Norway's capital Oslo began in dramatic fashion as France needed an over-time goal to see off Italy 2-1 at the Jordal Amfi venue.

Kazakhstan disappointed hosts Norway with another overtime win, 4-3 after they initially lost a 3-1 lead.

Only the group winners of the three tournaments will progress to Pyeongchang.

All of the action is being shown on the newly launched Olympic Channel.