Photos: Simon Seguin-Bertrand, Le Droit
Haakon Hanelt, the fifth-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals in 2021, was scheduled to participate in the World Junior Championship (WJC) this week in Alberta, Canada. Instead, the 18 year-old is rehabbing a shoulder that underwent surgery at the end of November.
Hanelt should have participated in last year’s World Junior Championship as well, but he and a good percentage of the German team contracted the COVID-19 virus two weeks before leaving for Alberta.
“All the players who were in Berlin got the virus. We were unable to travel to Canada. When the team arrived, there was still an outbreak…I was hoping I could get my place this year, but it looks like I’m not destined to play for my national team.”
Hanelt was also slated to participate in the World U-18 Championship last April in Texas, but was once again unable to participate. He would miss the tournament due to an injury he suffered that was similar in nature to the one that landed him on the operating table last month.
Hänelt played just seven games for the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL this season before being sidelined with the shoulder injury. He recorded five points, but none in his last three games when he was dealing with the injury. Hanelt had time to come to terms with the idea that an operation was inevitable and his dream of competing in the World Junior Championship was once again not to be.
“I played despite the pain in my last three games. After missing the last U20 World Championship and the U18 World Championship, I had hoped I could play despite the injury, but I had to resign myself to correcting the problem now,” said Hanelt.
“When I found out I had a third missed date (tournament) in a row, it hit me hard. It took a few weeks to recover. I wanted to show what I could do on the biggest stage in junior hockey and redeem my missed experience last year. I can’t change anything now. I have one last hope for next year,” Hanelt told LeDroit.
Despite his tournament misfortunes, Hänelt realizes that he is one of the few players who can rejoice in the postponement of five of the Gatineau Olympiques games between December 28 and January 7. If all goes to plan, Hänelt will return to the roster just before the playoffs. He might have a little more time to prepare if those five postponed games are added at the end of the regular season.
“For me, it’s good news if the season stretches out a bit. My rehabilitation is going well. It’s positive. I would like to play these five matches. At the same time, I don’t think I’m the only one to benefit from the postponement of matches during the holiday season. Within our team, the players will be able to spend more time with their respective families.”
Despite looking to the future with optimism, the German says he suffered a heartbreak when he saw footage of his national team training in Alberta.
“It’s hard to see them on the ice knowing that there is nothing I can do. I have the same feeling when I watch Olympiques games from the stands, but that’s how I met Kieran’s (Craig) parents. They were often seated behind me. They ended up inviting me over for the holiday season and that makes me feel good. Kieran is a good friend of mine. ”
The Capitals’ prospect has indeed found refuge in Alexandria, a picturesque village in Eastern Ontario, where he has been the guest of Kieran Craig’s family since last Sunday.
“It’s beautiful and it’s peaceful here. Kieran’s mother makes sure our plates are always full. We went bowling this week. We try to do activities that will not compromise my healing. I will be staying there until December 23 to celebrate Christmas with my boarding family. My father is due to arrive on December 25th.”
By Jon Sorensen