5:00pm: As if in response, Hockey Canada has announced that Alexis Lafreniere will also not be released to the tournament. Lafreniere will instead focus on training and preparing for the upcoming season with the New York Rangers, where he is expected to step right into a prominent role. After narrowly escaping major injury at the tournament last year, but still earning MVP honors and taking home the gold medal, it seems reasonable for the Rangers to want to keep Lafreniere at home,
3:37pm: Though it doesn’t come as much of a surprise, Jack Hughes will not be released to USA Hockey for the upcoming World Junior Championship. Though the program had interest, Darren Dreger of TSN reports that New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald has informed them the star forward will not go this year.
Hughes of course was the first-overall pick in 2019 by the Devils and missed the tournament last year as well thanks to his NHL commitments. Now 19, he is still eligible but doesn’t have a lot to gain from suiting up against the junior-aged players other than getting in some competitive action before the season begins. That’s what the Chicago Blackhawks are hoping for Kirby Dach for instance, who will go for Team Canada despite playing all last season in the NHL.
The Devils have high hopes for the upcoming season and a step forward from Hughes is imperative to any playoff run they may chase. It’s hard to call him anything but a disappointment in year one, with just seven goals and 21 points. That’s not what you hope for from a first-overall pick, but Hughes was always expected to take a little longer because of his slight frame. Off-ice training and practice with the Devils is likely more important to his development than dominating prospects at the World Juniors.
Team USA could potentially lose another talented youngster that has already made his NHL debut, as Dreger also notes that if the league starts up soon Nick Robertson would stay with the Toronto Maple Leafs instead of traveling to Edmonton. Robertson was listed on the preliminary roster and is currently training in Toronto with some Maple Leafs teammates.