If Connor McDavid’s broken finger goes the distance and he’s out of action for six weeks, Hockey Canada is willing to wait and will save a spot for him on the Canadian team for the World Junior Championship.
The Erie Otters announced Wednesday night that McDavid suffered a fracture of the fifth metacarpal on his right hand – which basically means he broke his pinky finger – and is expected to be out of the lineup between five and six weeks. Six weeks from Wednesday is Dec. 24 and Canada opens its WJC schedule against Slovakia in Montreal Dec. 26.
Teams must finalize their 22-man rosters by 24 hours before their first game of the tournament, but an enormous factor working in McDavid’s favor is that teams are also allowed to keep one extra roster spot open that they can fill at any point in the tournament, and that player can play in any game provided he is added to the roster three hours before the game.
McDavid will be at camp when it opens Dec. 11 and by that time he will have been out of the lineup four weeks. Hockey Canada will monitor McDavid’s progress, but it’s clear it will keep the light on for McDavid as long as there is hope he can play at some point in the tournament. Even if he can’t participate in the final selection camp or any of the exhibition games, McDavid will be on the team if he’s healthy.
“We have a lot of good hockey players in Canada,” said Scott Salmond, vice-president of hockey operations and national teams for Hockey Canada. “But Connor is a very special player. We want a 100 per cent Connor McDavid in the lineup and we’ll do anything to make that happen.”
Hockey Canada has dealt with injury issues before, so this is not a unique situation for the World Junior team. Salmond said it’s too early to tell, but he hinted Canada would be prepared to go with McDavid even if he is not 100 percent healthy. If he misses the entire camp and the exhibition games, it means McDavid will be hitting the ground running, exposing himself to an incredibly high level of competition after sitting idle for six weeks. But that’s clearly a situation Hockey Canada is willing to endure for a player who was on a 170-point pace with the Erie Otters before he was injured.
“We’ll have to see how his stickhandling and puckhandling will look,” Salmond said, “but he’s such a special player, if he can come in and play, I can’t think of a situation where he wouldn’t be put in our lineup.”
Salmond said he was with World Junior coach Benoit Groulx and head scout Ryan Jankowski at the Subway Super Series game in Brandon Tuesday night when he learned of McDavid’s injury and called it a “double whammy” because the Western League team also lost the game. But he said after everyone processed the situation and spoke with the Otters, they feel confident McDavid will be able to play.
“I think that would be the best Christmas present for Canadian hockey fans,” Salmond said, “and for us.”