While many international tournaments have already pulled the plug for next season or are expected to, one event that is still going on is the World Juniors at the top division. (Lower levels aren’t playing and accordingly, there won’t be any promotions and relegations.) The schedule was released today and can be found here. It starts one day earlier than usual this time around with three games on the docket for December 25th. Exhibition games will run from December 20th through the 23rd.
While the event was initially scheduled to take place in Edmonton and Red Deer, those plans have been changed. Instead, the tournament will be held exclusively in Edmonton within the Edmonton Ice District which housed the NHL in its Return to Play. The success of that was enough to give tournament organizers confidence that they could safely hold the event in the same environment, albeit without fans.
As a result of not being able to have spectators in attendance, the 2022 event will now be held in Red Deer and Edmonton with an expectation that fans will be able to attend by then. Meanwhile, Sweden, who was initially expected to host in 2022, will now do so in 2024.
While the tournament taking place in Edmonton could affect the Oilers as they prepare for next season, there has been speculation that the year may not start until mid-January or later although the NHL is still officially targeting January 1st as its return date. If it is the later of the two, they would have their arena back in time for the season to get underway although their training camp would likely have to take place at a different site.
The other thing to keep an eye on from an NHL scheduling standpoint is if the start is once again pushed back, junior-aged NHL players could, in theory, be made available to participate in this tournament. While there would be a risk of injury, that same risk exists for anyone that’s assigned on loan to play overseas while awaiting the start of camp and the World Juniors would certainly provide a high level of competition, especially if teams are augmented with players that otherwise wouldn’t be available. That certainly adds a layer of intrigue although we’re still a couple of months away from that decision being made.