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World Juniors

Lafreniere remains option for Hockey Canada at WJC

Rangers' No. 1 pick in 2020 Draft 'not out of the question' despite pause in selection camp

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Alexis Lafreniere, who was selected by the New York Rangers with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, remains a possibility to play for Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, according to Hockey Canada.

Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada senior vice president of national teams, said Thursday that the 19-year-old forward could join the group despite its WJC selection camp in Red Deer, Alberta, pausing all activities Tuesday after two players tested positive for the coronavirus.

All players and staff members are going through a 14-day isolation period at a hotel in Red Deer.

"There are precautions that you can put in place, in terms of that person and their quarantine responsibilities, in particular Alexis as he is in New York currently so there would be some quarantine restrictions on him to arrive into Canada," Salmond said. "But we're going to keep that conversation going and we're going to look at all the different options still. I would say it's not out of the question."

The Rangers said they won't make a decision on Lafreniere's availability for the WJC until the NHL announces a schedule for this season. The NHL has targeted Jan. 1, 2021, as a start date.

Hockey Canada's deadline to include Lafreniere on its roster is Dec. 6. The IIHF has ruled that a team must be together for one week before arriving in Edmonton for the WJC on Dec. 13, and each member of the 40-person traveling party must have three negative tests for the coronavirus.

The WJC will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton from Dec. 25-Jan. 5. No fans will be in attendance for the games, and the teams will be placed in a secure zone similar to the one used by the NHL during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Defensemen Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche) and Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks), and forwards Quinton Byfield (Los Angeles Kings), Dylan Cozens (Buffalo Sabres), Kirby Dach (Chicago Blackhawks), Connor McMichael (Washington Capitals), Dawson Mercer (New Jersey Devils) and Jack Quinn (Sabres) are among the players at camp.

Lafreniere helped Canada win the 2020 WJC, when he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games and was named the tournament's most valuable player. He scored one goal in five games at the 2019 WJC.

Lafreniere signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Rangers on Oct. 12 and is expected to play a top-nine role for New York this season.

"We're talking about those scenarios and what's going to happen," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said Oct. 14. "Right now our focus is get him here as soon as we can and have him start training and be here and start focusing in the NHL season, and we'll take it as it comes as far as the World Junior or any other situation that might come up."

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