New York Rangers winger Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, will not be released to Canada for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Hockey Canada announced Thursday.
“After ongoing discussions with the New York Rangers, Hockey Canada has been informed that Alexis Lafrenière will not be released to represent Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton," Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams for Hockey Canada said in a statement. "Although we are disappointed Alexis will not be able to join our team for World Juniors, we understand and respect the decision made by the Rangers.”
Lafreniere, 19, has represented Canada at the last two tournaments, winning the tournament MVP on last year's gold medal-winning squad. He had 10 points in five games at last year's tournament.
In a normal season, Lafreniere would have missed the tournament while playing for the Rangers. But since the pandemic has delayed the start of the 2020-21 NHL season, players like the Blackhawks' Kirby Dach, Avalanche's Bowen Byram and the Sabres' Dylan Cozens have been made available to Canada. While the QMJHL season resumed in October, Lafreniere didn't return to the Rimouski Oceanic and instead has been in New York preparing for the NHL season.
The Rangers have yet to say whether Kaapo Kakko, the second-overall pick in 2019, will be released to Finland for the tournament.