This past Friday, the 2017 IIHF World Championships kicked off in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France. The yearly tournament that allows players who are no longer playing in the NHL playoffs, and players throughout Europe, represent their country.
The hockey is usually high quality with quite a few players who wouldn’t be available in a ‘best vs. best’ tournament like the World Cup or the Olympics being able to represent their country.
It is also a good development opportunity for young players. In particular, the United States loads up on young players. It allows US Hockey a chance to see these players on a bigger stage but also gets those players a chance that may not be available.
For example, Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko was part of the 2016 US roster. Although he never suited up, he repeatedly mentioned that it was a good opportunity to see how the pros prepare and focus for games, it also allowed some extra coaching.
Which brings us to this year’s tournament and young Canucks centre Bo Horvat.
Horvat would’ve been in consideration for a roster spot with Team Canada this year after his breakout season. But without a contract for next season, Horvat ultimately decided against playing in the tournament to avoid the risk of injury. Playing for Team Canada would also put him in a disadvantageous position in negotiations.
It’s an unfortunate, but defensible decision from the London, Ontario native. Any long term injury could cost the 22-year-old hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It was also very clear that Horvat’s representation wanted to wait until the conclusion of the season before getting a deal done. They expected a breakout season from Horvat, and he delivered.
However, in November, I suggested that the Canucks be wise to press and get a deal done to try and limit the cost. A week and a half later, I broke down what we could expect for Horvat’s next contract.
Obviously, it’s not fair for me to suggest that the Canucks could’ve forced Horvat to sign a contract. But it was clear that early in the season that Horvat was trending in the right direction, and this situation was inevitable.
The season ended a few weeks ago, and recently the word is “A deal will get done, but it may take a while”. That is where the concern is. Horvat is a huge part of the organization going forward and should’ve been the top priority for getting a deal done.
Since the contract has not been completed, Horvat ultimately decided to skip the World Championships. It would’ve provided him with the opportunity of playing with some of the other elite talents in the NHL and provided a good measuring stick to see what the next step is.
Ultimately, it’s just an unfortunate circumstance that was likely unavoidable given the complexity of a contract negotiation.
But there is no doubt that Horvat not playing at the World Championships is a missed opportunity.