OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — After fearing the worst, Hockey Canada had some reason to breathe a sigh of relief on Saturday night after Team Canada’s most lopsided loss in World Junior Championship history.
Turns out, Alexis Lafreniere’s injury may not be as bad as initially feared.
Doctors continued to review the MRI on Lafreniere’s left knee on Saturday night, but sources indicated the initial prognosis provided a glimmer of hope that Lafreniere may even be able to return to play in this tournament.
Lafreniere was seen returning to Team Canada’s hotel with a limp, but without the need for crutches.
That is a big silver lining for Team Canada on a day where there was none.
Not only did Team Canada’s tournament hopes seem to be up in the air after the historic blow out, but so too potentially did Lafreniere’s claim to the projected No. 1 overall pick depending on the severity of the injury. His crash into the Russian net looked that ugly.
Whatever wind remained in Team Canada’s sails evaporated when Lafreniere left the ice not putting any weight onto his left leg.
“It’s tough when you see a brother go down like that,” teammate Ty Smith said. “He’s a star, so losing a guy like that is tough for our group.”
Now, the timing of Team Canada’s schedule would seem to work in their favour to get Lafreniere to rehab his injury. Canada does not play on Sunday, but closes out the preliminary round with back-to-back games against Germany and the host Czech Republic - believed to be two of the lighter opponents in Group B.
Team Canada is expected to provide a further official update on Lafreniere’s status on Sunday.
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli