OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Alexis Lafreniere will miss Team Canada’s next game against Germany on Monday, but the team says his status for the remainder of the World Junior Championship is up in the air.
Team Canada assistant coach Andre Tourigny said that the MRI on Lafreniere’s left knee did not reveal any fractures or torn ligaments. The MRI was conducted at an Ostrava hospital, with an initial prognosis provided by Team Canada physician Dr. Ed Berdusco, before the images were sent back to Calgary to be further reviewed by doctors working with Hockey Canada.
The projected No. 1 overall pick in June’s NHL Draft attended Canada’s practice on Sunday wearing a brace under his street clothes. He did not require crutches to get around.
“We have nothing firm,” Tourigny said. “We don’t know yet, but he’s walking right now so that’s positive. The doc[tor] said it’s positive news that we’ve gotten so far.”
Tourigny told reporters in French that Lafreniere will not face Germany on Monday (8:30 a.m. ET on TSN 1/4/5), but he has not been ruled out for the tournament.
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“Not yet he’s not,” Tourigny said. “As a coach, you try to know if he will play and they didn’t say he will play. But they didn’t say he won’t. So the sun came up and ‘Laf’ is not [ruled] out.”
It’s clear that Team Canada will take a patient approach with Lafreniere, waiting to see how he recovers over the next few days, while also keeping in mind his career’s best interests. Every player wants to represent their country well, but the truth is that what's at stake for him personally is bigger than Canada’s gold medal hopes.
Lafreniere, 18, is the clear cut and consensus No. 1 pick with the Draft upcoming near his hometown in Montreal. It is possible Lafreniere and his team decide to take a precautionary approach and hold him off the ice for the duration of the tournament.
"Everyone understands there is a lot at stake for him," Tourigny said in French.
The reigning CHL Player of the Year was off to a tremendous start both this season with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic and Team Canada prior to the injury.
Lafreniere jumpstarted Team Canada on Thursday with a four-point effort against the Americans to open the tournament. He also posted 70 points, including 23 goals, in 32 games with the Oceanic to pace all Canadian major junior players in scoring.
Lafreniere did not address reporters on Sunday, but Tourigny said he has spoken with him and he remains upbeat.
His importance to Team Canada both on the ice and off - as a leader and player who likes to keep the mood light - cannot be overstated.
“He is a smiling kid. He always has a lot of enthusiasm. He’s always fun,” Tourigny said. “He did not change much. He is smiling around the boys and making jokes. He is pretty loose right now, so it is a good sign.”
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli