The International Ice Hockey Federation's World Junior Championship has just taken a pretty big hit.
According to an announcement made via the National Hockey League's official website, both Canada and the United States of America have taken a significant hit to their rosters, wth Canadian forward Alexis Lafreniere and American forward Jack Hughes both dropping out of the tournament. The Devils confirmed the decision was motivated by a desire to keep Hughes focused on the upcoming NHL season, understandable given how much the Devils struggled this past season.
"Jack put in a ton of work and commitment to his craft (in the offseason)," said Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald via the league's official website. "Our No. 1 priority for Jack is to have him ready, physically and mentally, and healthy for the start of the 2020-21 season, whenever that day is."
In the case of the New York Rangers 1st overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, it was Hockey Canada that confirmed that they had not been granted permission to use Lafreniere in the tournament.
"After ongoing discussions with the New York Rangers, Hockey Canada has been informed that Alexis Lafreniere will not be released to represent Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton," Hockey Canada said in a statement. "Although we are disappointed Alexis will not be able to join our team for World Juniors, we understand and respect the decision made by the Rangers."
Although this will be extremely disappointing for the many fans who have the World Juniors circled on their calendars as one of the most exciting events in hockey each and every year, it is easy to understand why NHL teams are choosing to be overly cautious with their star prospects in the midst of this ongoing pandemic.
There's potentially a silver lining here for hockey fans however and that is the very real indication that the NHL season may soon be on its way. After all if the owners of these NHL franchises truly believed we wouldn't be getting a season, or wouldn't be getting one anytime soon, would they be denying their young stars a chance to grow their skills at an international tournament?