The Montreal Canadiens had three prospects suiting up at the World Juniors.
Kaiden Guhle and Team Canada as well as Oliver Kapanen and Team Finland were off to great starts to the event. Jan Mysak was representing Czechia and their games were not quite going as planned.
A head to head matchup between Mysak and Kapanen was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, but had to be cancelled when a member of Czechia tested positive for Covid-19. A couple hours later a Russian player tested positive and they had to forfeit their game with Slovakia. This was the third game cancelled in the event, but it was just the beginning.
Shortly after cancelling that Russian game, an announcement was made to cancel the entire tournament. Adding in the fact two players from Team USA tested positive on Monday, there were three teams that had games forfeited and it was just too much to continue going on with the event at the risk of young players health and safety.
It was a controversial decision, but it was the right one.
Continuing to play could have resulted in more and more cancellations and an embarrassing end to this tournament. Imagine if a team was gearing up for a semifinal game or the gold medal game and they had one player test positive. Under the current rules and protocols in place, that team would immediately forfeit the game.
That would be a worst case scenario and the IIHF and Hockey Canada have ensured they will avoid that possibility. It would have been an ugly end to the World Juniors if a team was handed a gold medal in their hotel rooms while their opponent was unable to play because one player tested positive.
Or, even worse, what if a player on both teams scheduled to play in the gold medal game tested positive on the morning of the final game? They definitely would not be able to play the game, but who would take the gold medal? The team that had a player test positive later? Would no one get a gold medal at that point? Was there any chance at all of even getting that far without having breakouts on every single team involved in the tournament?
The chances of a smooth medal round were almost zero, so there was really no other choice but to shut things down now.
That is bad news for the Habs three prospects, especially Guhle and Kapanen who looked to have good chances of playing for medals later on in this tournament.
There has been some talk that maybe the event can be held at a later date, possibly in the summer, but there will be nothing official announced about that anytime soon. Hopefully the IIHF will be able to hold the tournament at a later date and Guhle, Mysak and Kapanen get an opportunity to play their World Juniors.