BOSTON — David Pastrnak will be made available to join the Czech national team at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney told reporters during the first intermission of Saturday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden.
The NHL’s roster freeze, which began on Dec. 19, ends at midnight (local time) on Dec. 27.
“We are going to make him available to them at that particular time, unless we have injuries that would dictate otherwise,” Sweeney said.
The World Junior Championship began on Dec. 26 in Helsinki, Finland.
Pastrnak recently joined the Providence Bruins on a conditioning loan and suited up in two games, marking his first game action since Oct. 31.
“David’s played two games since being out for seven weeks. Obviously the injury took longer and it was in his best interest to make sure he was fully healthy,” said Sweeney. “He is fully healthy and now we need to get him back to where he would impact our lineup.”
Pastrnak suffered a fracture in his left foot blocking a shot on Oct. 27 and ended up missing seven weeks in his recovery. His availability for the upcoming 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland had been in question, mostly based on his lengthy time away from playing in games.
Sweeney had stressed repeatedly in recent weeks how Pastrnak’s health was at the forefront of any decision that would be made for him to go to the World Juniors or rejoin Boston.
“If indeed he does join the [Czech] team on the 28th over in Finland, we think that based on last year, his experience there in the tournament, the confidence that he had, that he’ll come back to the full level that he really had gotten to last year, impacting our lineup,” Sweeney said.
The rules dictate that Pastrnak has to be available by the club if he’s not in an NHL lineup. He would not have the option of playing in Providence until the World Juniors is over.
“I think at this point in time, David was hoping with anything and everything to get back up to the level where he wants to be at,” said Sweeney. “And again, he came out of the [World Juniors] tournament last year with a high level of confidence as to what he had done there and we expect him to return to that same confidence level when he does come back.”
In the 2015 tournament, Pastrnak put up a goal (overtime winner) and six assists through five games for the Czech Republic. He came back from the tournament, joined Boston and stayed up with the big club for the rest of the season, becoming an important source of production down the stretch.
“That would be our hope, that he would return with confidence,” said Sweeney. “Again, being off for seven weeks, that’s a long time for any player, let alone a 19-year-old player, to jump back into midstream at the National Hockey League level and I think this will give him a real shot in the arm with confidence.”
The Czech Republic played its first game on the 26th, falling 2-1 to Russia. The preliminary round of World Juniors ends on Dec. 31, with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds taking place from Jan. 2 through Jan. 4. The gold medal and bronze medal games will be played on Jan. 5.
If Pastrnak does indeed go the tournament, Sweeney and his staff will want to see him continue getting back up to game speed and playing at the level that he’s capable of playing at.
“I think the opportunity for him to go play really heavy minutes in all situations, at a very, very high level,, competitive level, against his peers, I think is a unique situation — with the timing and such, with the freeze, his injury and things all collided at once,” said Sweeney. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him, as I said, for him to return to the level we expect him to be back at and be able to impact our own lineup.”