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!