The St. Louis Blues have young draftees they are excited about. However, the selection committees for the WJC don’t see it quite that way.
For the second time in as many years, through a technicality, the Blues will have no prospects representing their franchise at the World Junior Championships. It’s a bit surprising, especially with the success Blues prospects have had in the CHL, but not totally unexpected.
The name most people assumed would play in the 2022 WJC was Jake Neighbours. That’s where the technicality sets in.
Under normal circumstances, the World Junior Championships often start on December 26 and then run into the new year. That was the plan for 2021-22 and they even played two or more games in that tournament.
Unfortunately, a wave of covid hit multiple teams. Tournament organizers decided it was best to cancel the entire thing rather than have the competitive balance thrown off by teams being so shorthanded.
Technically, Neighbours did represent the Blues and Team Canada. It just won’t really go down in the records that way other than a few stat sheets.
Neighbours got off to a strong start. He scored two assists in two games for Team Canada, both in wins.
However, his disrupted season and playing extra games in the Memorial Cup gave Neighbours less time to rest. Even though he’s young, he told Jeremy Rutherford that he needed a break and to shift focus.
“With how long my season went and how my body is feeling right now, I’ve made Hockey Canada aware of that,” Neighbours told Rutherford. “We had a good discussion about it.”
While it’s disappointing that Neighbours won’t play in this oddly scheduled WJC, it’s understandable. He has a good shot at making the Blues out of training camp, so no need to risk injury or fatigue yourself prior to a potentially longer season than he’s ever played before.
Yet, the absence of any other prospects shouldn’t worry fans too much. The only potential snub is Zacary Bolduc, but Team Canada is so deep, especially in the middle, that it’s hard to break through sometimes.
The two American draftees by St. Louis are college players. That doesn’t automatically disqualify you, but they may not have been selected or may have chosen to get ready for their NCAA season.
The Blues have a couple Russian prospects in the system, so perhaps they would have been selected. However, Team Russia is currently barred from international competitions due to their country’s invasion of Ukraine.
There might be a multitude of reasons the Blues prospects won’t be playing in the tournament that begins August 9 and runs through the 20th. There’s not much reason to worry though.
Perhaps there’s no prospect to watch over the next 11 days, but not all the Blues prospects that turned into something were highly touted.