The World Junior Championship began today and it took just 53 seconds for the first notable injury to occur. Czech Republic forward Jakub Lauko (BOS) was sandwiched between two Russian checks within the first minute of this morning’s game (video). Lauko’s right knee buckled from knee-to-knee contact on the first hit and as he he fell there was knee-to-knee contact on the second hit, not to mention shoulder-to-chest and head-to-ice. Lauko struggled off the ice and did not return. He was later seen watching the game with his right knee taped and using crutches. After the game, head coach Vaclav Varada indicated that it was an MCL injury for Lauko and that the early expectation is that he will miss the rest of the tournament. The host Czechs escaped with the win against the Russians, but will struggle without Lauko, one of the top forwards on a shallow unit up front. Lauko has eight points in 18 games with the Providence Bruins in his first pro season.
Team Finland also suffered a blow in the first game of their title defense and it wasn’t just the loss to rival Sweden. Rasmus Kupari (LAK) suffered a left knee injury in the third period on an awkward check that sent him airborne (video). Kupari was helped off the ice and did not return. Early indications is that it is a serious injury. Kupari had eight points in 27 games with the AHL’s Onatio Reign prior to the injury but now one has to wonder if his first season in North America is now over, ended by the overseas tournament. Fortunately for Kings fans, the team still leads all NHL teams in WJC participants, even with Kupari’s absence.
- Benoit-Olivier Groulx (ANA), the final cut from Team Canada’s WJC roster, will be on a new team when QMJHL action resumes. The Moncton Wildcats have announced that they have acquired the former Halifax Mooseheads captain in exchange for a 2021 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2020 and 2022. Groulx, a second-round selection of the Anaheim Ducks in 2018, had 41 points in 28 games with Halifax prior to the trade and will look to keep that momentum going with his new team. The skilled, two-way center is a major addition for Moncton, who currently hold the third-best record in the league and have their eyes on a Memorial Cup berth this season.
- 2020 NHL Draft prospect Jan Mysak made a splash in his WJC debut, named the player of the game for the Czech Republic versus Russia. The young winger is a dynamic offensive talent who has flown somewhat under the radar due to his participation in the Czech pro league instead of a more recognizable locale. However, many expect that by the end of the tournament he will have assured any doubters that he is worthy of his first-round billing. Meanwhile, older brother Josef Mysak didn’t want to miss out on the headlines. Mysak, a defenseman in the NAHL, has committed to play college hockey at Niagara University. The elder Mysak becomes the first graduate of HC Litvinov, the program that both he and his brother grew up in, to play in the NCAA, while Jan could become the first to be drafted in the first round of the NHL Draft.