The 2021 World Juniors Championship is in the midst of the quarantining period, which will continue once teams begin to arrive in Edmonton, Alberta starting this Sunday, Dec. 13, where they’ll face another five days of quarantine. Since Dec. 6, teams have been under quarantine in their home countries, and must have three negative tests for the novel coronavirus prior to entering the bubble in Edmonton.
Several players have been deemed unfit to play due to positive test for the virus during this process, including Anaheim Ducks prospect Thimo Nickl — just one of two NHL-drafted players on Team Austria (the other being the Minnesota Wild’s Marco Rossi).
Nickl, a 19-year-old defender, was selected by the Ducks in the fourth round (104 overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft after his first season in North America with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. He has represented Austria internationally over the last three seasons and is currently on loan to the Rögle BK of the J20 Nationell, Sweden’s men’s junior hockey league.
Team Austria is far from the hardest hit by positive COVID-19 results among players and staff. Team Canada was forced to operate their selection camp while under a 14-day quarantine after multiple players and non-core staff tested positive. Forwards Xavier Simoneau (2021 draft prospect) and Ridly Greig (Ottawa Senators, 2020) as well as defenders Matthew Robertson (New York Rangers, 2019), Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers, 2019) and Daemon Hunt (Minnesota Wild, 2020) were all deemed “unfit to play” and sent home.
Germany is losing four players, notably Chicago Blackhawks prospect Lukas Reichel and goaltender Tobias Ancicka. Losing two additional forwards (Nino Kinder and Elias Linder) knocks out an entire line for the team. Switzerland is also losing three forwards. Three players on Team USA had to be replaced ahead of their camp, due to exposure at Boston University.
Team Sweden has been hit the hardest, first losing two forwards and their video coach prior to camp. Since then, their head coach, assistant coach, goaltending coach and two additional players have tested positive for the virus. They’ll be without forwards Karl Henriksson (New York Rangers, 2019), William Eklund (2021 draft) and Albin Grewe (Detroit Red Wings, 2019) and defender William Wallinder (Detroit Red Wings, 2020).
Even International Ice Hockey Federation president René Fasel and general secretary Horst Lichtner have both contracted COVID-19 ahead of the tournament. Despite being held “bubble-style,” it feels as if the virus has already permeated so many of the locker rooms that it seems fair to wonder if it’s worth moving forward with tournament at all — and who else is at risk of exposure along the way when they do.