Weekend Open Thread: Are the World Juniors Important?

World Junior summer camps ended this past week, with a pair of Calgary Flames first round picks vying for spots on Team Canada in the form of Sam Bennett and Morgan Klimchuk, and Rushan Rafikov doing his best to cement his spot on the Russian U20 team.

Of course, amidst all this hubbub about trying out for international teams, Canada’s Aaron Ekblad left the camp with a concussion and Robby Fabbri received a lower body injury. Yes, during a summer try-out camp for a tournament that runs during the middle of the North American playing season.

This leads to this week’s Weekend Open Thread question: Are the World Juniors important?

Now, there’s probably two prongs to this argument.

If you’re an individual player, you’re probably saying yes. Rushan Rafikov, for example, may not be a good enough professional hockey player to ever play for the Russian team at the World Championships or Olympics. But among his age cohort, he is definitely in the conversation, and could probably make the team if he has more efforts like he did in his two games against the Canadian teens he’s probably a shoo-in.

But if I’m, say, the Calgary Flames, I look at Ekblad and Fabbri getting injured (in the try-outs) and I get nervous, because there’s a chance that one of your best young players could get injured and your team might not get much pay-off out of it. (Compared to, say, an in-season injury where your players at least earn your club points towards a playoff spot, for example.) The developmental benefit of a good World Juniors performance is also debatable.

On the other hand, it can be a nice ego boost for both the player and the organization if a player goes to the World Juniors and tears it up. See, for example, Johnny Gaudreau at last year’s World Juniors.

What’s your stance? Share (and argue) in the comments!

  • The Last Big Bear

    Samples of the spectrum of importance:

    1) Oxygen

    5) Sleep

    10) Social Interaction

    25) Job Satisfaction

    50) The New Axe Body Spray

    100) Keeping Up With The Kardashians

    I would say the World Juniors rank about a 7 or an 8.

  • beloch

    When I’m snow-boarding, I like to occasionally do something that ought to kill me. After I do this, things that made me nervous before (without good reason) seem easy in comparison. Throwing yourself into the deep redefines your comfort zone.

    The WJC redefines the comfort zones of a lot of players I suspect. There’s not a lot of pressure on players in the junior leagues. If one of them blows a pass that could have won the QMJHL championship, nobody outside that small arena is likely to see it and it’s not going to make the papers. The WJC is televised internationally. People will be dissecting replays of the games for years, trying to determine how good these kids really are. The pressure there is intense.

    Injuries are always a risk in hockey, and I would certainly believe the risk is slightly higher than normal at the WJC because every player there is pushing himself extra hard. However, the benefits of playing in the WJC cannot be replicated by any ammount of play in the junior leagues.

    • piscera.infada

      Beautifully said. In my opinion, it’s not so much the skill of the competition or the extra playing time, it’s the stakes. Some of these players (Monahan, Bennett, Klimchuk) have played very little meaningful hockey in their careers. The WHJC is one of the few opportunities they get to play for keeps under the intense limelight that the Canadian sports media shines on them (whether you believe this is good or bad, is a different discussion).

      There’s also the argument that playing in this tournament (like the World Championships), keeps you in consideration for Team Canada down the road.

      • supra steve

        “Some of these players (Monahan, Bennett, Klimchuk) have played very little meaningful hockey in their careers.”

        While most of these kids previous experiences in hockey could be considered meaningless to you or to me, I’m sure that there has been a great deal of meaningful hockey for each and every one of them.

        I watched my son win a BAA league championship about 18 months ago, and it was certainly meaningful to him (and me).

  • I just hope Hockey Canada does their homework this year. Last year they got lazy and it showed, especially when they basically invited just two extra players to their fall camp, one of them Hunter Shinkaruk (who was both injured and playing very poorly at the time).

      • McRib

        Considering Hockey Canada had him on a line with Reinhart & McDavid to start camp I think it would be a very good sign that they sat him. Hahah. He picked up an assist in the first game and when he did sit out in the second game, Canada got beat fairly convincingly… He is about as good of a lock I think to make the team at this point as anyone, especially since the top guys might make NHL teams. I could even see him wearing an “A” or even a “C” come Christmas time. Connor McDavid is Klimchuks roomate at camp, I don’t think they are rooming McDavid with a bubble player even in a camp like this…

        Some people close to Hockey Canada I know said they likely would have taken him last year if not for an injury in the Canada/Russia series. I personally just hope that Hockey Canada uses him in a Top. 6 role like they did at the U18s last summer so he can show people that he has more offensive upside going forward then they are expecting, like he did at the U18s.

  • supra steve

    Let them play…This is a game of contact and injuries happen.

    You can not put them in bubble this is hockey.

    Injuries will happen no matter what you do!

  • supra steve

    By far one of my favorite times of the year. Besides the playoffs, the world juniors is my favorite hockey to watch. So much talent and excitement! Love it! From a organizational standpoint its probably not the most profitable but you can see that this tournament means a lot to the players.

  • FlamesRule

    Developing confidence is just as or more important than developing skills. The WJC offers this opportunity in a relatively short period of time.

    Agree with Loudog – injuries can happen anywhere. Play hard – live hard!

  • loudogYYC

    Yes, the WJC matters because it’s the best U-20 players in the world competing against each other. It’s even more important here because Canada’s expected to win it so it helps maintain a very high level of competition among hopefuls.

    Injuries happen on golf courses too, so whatever. Not much you can do about that.

    • supra steve

      “Injuries happen on golf courses too, so whatever. Not much you can do about that”

      Agreed. Joe Sakic cut himself up real bad with a snowblower several years back.

      These are hockey players, playing hockey can be dangerous, but the Flames have to be happy anytime one of their prospects gets invited to play in this tournament.

  • Klimchuk didn’t return to the ice in the 3rd period of the last game. Does anyone have any word on what happened? I hope he didn’t get injured.

    Bennett drove hard to the net and showed some of his skill and was one of the top Canadian players. He made some big hits and took some penalties showing his truculence!