Like most things in the world nowadays, this year’s World Junior Championship is unique. Because there’s no NHL season currently taking place, many countries have access to players they would otherwise not be able to have on their rosters. Names like Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, Kirby Dach, Jack Hughes, and others are all eligible to play but teams are starting to hold them back.
Jack Hughes of the Devils and Alexis Lafreniere of the Rangers, the No. 1 picks in the past two NHL Drafts, will not play in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.https://t.co/qGq2GTCP0v
— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) December 4, 2020
The Golden Knights have multiple players who are expected to take part in the competition. Peyton Krebs and Kaedan Korczak seem like locks for Canada, Brendan Brisson will be on Team USA, and Marcus Kallionkieli and Lukas Cormier each could be there as well.
For Vegas, none of these players are expected to make major impacts at the NHL level, well, at least not to the level of a Hughes or Lafreniere.
But what if they did? Where would we stand?
It’s a tough decision for any NHL club, especially with the uncertainty of the upcoming season. However, with the schedule of the tournament, there’s no reason to hold these guys back from a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The World Junior tournament is slated to end on January 6th. Even those most optimistic NHL fan knows the regular season isn’t starting before then. So, these key young players would be missing the beginning of training camp and at the very least one preseason game.
In exchange, they’d be playing in competitive games on an international stage with massive expectations on their shoulders. For me, this is exactly what you want for your upcoming stars.
Personally, the benefits seem to far outweigh the drawbacks. Missing camp means very little, especially this year when many of the meetings will be conducted virtually. I’ve seen COVID used as an excuse not to send a player when really it should be an excuse to send the player. There will be no safer place than the World Junior bubble. Finally, injury fears have to be put aside considering we are expecting these guys to play 60 games in four months. If we are afraid of 10 games at the junior level, how can you expect a player to survive the rigors of an NHL season?
Highly competitive games are hard to find, especially in 2020. For guys like Lafreniere and Hughes, they may not see a game as important as the ones the kids at World Juniors will see for years.
It’s an enviable situation to be in and unfortunately, the Golden Knights are not in it. If they were, I’d be strongly in favor of sending anyone eligible, even if that player was expected to have a massive impact in the NHL.
Luckily, this poor decision by the Rangers and Devils will actually benefit the Golden Knights. Krebs and Brisson will find themselves higher up the depth chart and get more minutes.