Rangers Alexis Lafreniere, and Kaapo Kakko could play at World Juniors if schedule allows

The IIHF has announced the start of the 2021 World Juniors for December 25. The tournament will follow a very similar model to the NHL’s Return-to-Play as all ten teams will participate in a “competition bubble” in Edmonton.

Rangers and the 2021 World Junior Championship

COVID-19 continues to play a role in the uncertainty of the NHL’s start date. This has left the availability of recently drafted prospects like Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield and others questionable. A lot will depend on what the NHL can do to start next season.

For example, if the NHL season is slated to start in early or mid-January it is unlikely the Rangers let Lafreniere play. If the start date for the league is in February, well now the Rangers could consider the benefits of having him and maybe even Kaapo Kakko participate.

rangers world juniors
Lafrenière (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Codie McLachlan)

Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko at the World Juniors

Late yesterday, Bob McKenzie put out another long thread about the subject. In it he was clear that the NHL start date would be the first real indicator to what NHL team’s with eligible players will do.

McKenzie called out both Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko specifically. “Now, if at some point well before the WJC start date of Dec. 25, the NHL 20-21 start date is set for much later in January or February, well, that would give NYR and Lafreniere the opportunity to consider the option of Lafreniere going back for a third tour of WJC duty,” he explained.

“As long as the NHL season gets underway any time in January, with camps opening a few weeks earlier, I’m hard pressed to envision last year’s full-time NHLers playing at the WJC,” McKenzie added. “NJ, NYR, CHI won’t close any doors until they get further clarity on start dates, though it’s safe to say all three teams view Hughes, Kakko and Dach as pros and the priorities for teams/players is NHL focused.”

Does it make sense?

rangers world juniors
Kakko and Lehtonen celebrate (Ilta Sanomat -David W Cerny)

So should the Rangers let them play at the WJC? This is an easy answer for me.


Neither of these two young stars have played a meaning full hockey game in months. Alexis Lafreniere hasn’t played a single game since March. That’s will be well over 9 months if the NHL season starts in late January for the Rangers first overall pick.

Kakko on the other hand played four games since March. There were also considerations in the Rangers front office to allow him to possibly play in Finland but at this time they decided not to.

Bottom line, if the schedule permits the Rangers should let both play.

Strike up those Johnny Gaudreau rumors again

Looks like comments from the Flames GM will have these fired up again.

Grab an Alexis Lafreniere jersey at the NHL Shop!

Alexis Lafreniere is the Rangers first #1 pick overall since 1965. Now you can get his jersey right now from our affiliate link at NHL SHOP!

Alexis Lafreniere jersey sale
Alexis Lafreniere jersey sale (NHL SHOP)

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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