October 29, 2020
The New York Rangers have three prospects participating in Canada’s WJC camp. One player that was not on the invite list and a glaring omission is #1 pick Alexis Lafreniere.
This was done intentionally since the game plan is to have him start the season with the big club. Of course, there is no determination as to when the next NHL season will start. So there is a possibility that Lafreniere, and even Kaapo Kakko could play in the tournament.
Rangers will take their time on Lafreniere and WJC
Former Rangers head coach Tom Renney is responsible for Team Canada. He stated that there are ongoing discussions and the Rangers are open-minded to Alexis competing at the WJC. Renney said he will circle back with New York in 10 days to discuss where they are at on his participation. This is also likely the case with Kaapo Kakko for Finland.
Rangers and the 2021 World Junior Championship
COVID-19 continues to play a role in the uncertainty of the NHL’s start date. This has left the availability of recently drafted prospects like Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and others questionable. A lot will depend on what the NHL can do to start next season.
For example, if the NHL season is slated to start in early or mid-January it is unlikely the Rangers let Lafreniere play. If the start date for the league is in February, well now the Rangers could consider the benefits of having him and maybe even Kaapo Kakko participate.
Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko at the World Juniors
On October 19th, Bob McKenzie put out a long thread about the subject. In it he was clear that the NHL start date would be the first real indicator to what NHL team’s with eligible players will do.
McKenzie called out both Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko specifically. “Now, if at some point well before the WJC start date of Dec. 25, the NHL 20-21 start date is set for much later in January or February, well, that would give NYR and Lafreniere the opportunity to consider the option of Lafreniere going back for a third tour of WJC duty,” he explained.
“As long as the NHL season gets underway any time in January, with camps opening a few weeks earlier, I’m hard pressed to envision last year’s full-time NHLers playing at the WJC,” McKenzie added. “NJ, NYR, CHI won’t close any doors until they get further clarity on start dates, though it’s safe to say all three teams view Hughes, Kakko and Dach as pros and the priorities for teams/players is NHL focused.”