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WJC2013: Team USA may lose Ottawa Senators pick Stefan Noesen to OHL suspension

Ottawa Senators first-rounder Stefan Noesen (OHL Images)

Chalk this up to the difference between leagues in scheduling and supplemental discipline, but that does not make it fair to Stefan Noesen and Team USA.

Earlier this week, Team Canada left wing Jonathan Huberdeau was suspended four games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for an incident where a linesman was injured. The suspension was academic since it covered a stretch where Huberdeau would be with Canada in preparation for the IIHF world U20 championship instead of the Saint John Sea Dogs. But Plymouth Whalers star Stefan Noesen might not get away scot-free. As Chris M. Peters of the awesome United States of Hockey blog uncovered, Noesen's 10-game suspension from the Ontario League for a charging major/game misconduct last weekend imperils his availability to the Yanks for the world junior hockey championship.

Peters explains it better than I can:

Confirmed via source with direct knowledge of the situation,
IIHF will honor OHL's suspension, which would cost Noesen a shot at playing at the World Juniors. USA Hockey has appealed the decision.

... Even if the IIHF accounts for time served, the Whalers only have two games between now and the start of the tournament. Noesen already sat out Wednesday night's game. Using that info, there will be seven games left on Noesen's suspension which would mean he'd likely have to miss about four or five tournament games. If the IIHF decides to uphold the ruling, it likely dashes Noesen's hopes. (United States of Hockey)

Peters pointed out the pertinent statute. Bylaw 302 states, "Player suspensions will apply to participation in both ice hockey and In-line hockey competitions irrespective of the competition in which the offence giving rise to the suspension occurred."

The difference between Huberdeau and Noesen's situations is that Saint John will have played four games (five, in fact) by the time the WJC begins on Dec. 26. The OHL is beginning its holiday break on Monday, so the Whalers only play three games before the tournament begins.

Understandably, USA Hockey is going to appeal to the IIHF; make your own joke about how the term 'Branch justice' translates to European hockey officials. Noesen, who was ejected from the game, appears to jump before checking the Oshawa Generals' Tyler Hore on the play in question.

There is an avenue for USA Hockey to appeal. A half-educated guess is Noesen would join the team while it's being heard and perhaps will get off the hook. However, Peters' tone seems less than optimistic.

During the expected appeal from USA Hockey, the IIHF can make its own decision if they choose to independently review the hit. It would also be expected that time served on the suspension will be taken into account.

Should the IIHF grant some leniency, Noesen could be back, but the IIHF has put an added emphasis on discipline of late. The organization doesn't always interpret rules consistently, so how they act on this is anyone's guess. Additionally, the IIHF wants member leagues to honor IIHF suspensions, so that's a big reason not to be optimistic the IIHF will go against the OHL here (though I'd expect the OHL would rather see Noesen play in the tournament).

Nothing has been finalized in regards to Noesen's status for the World Junior Championship, so this is still a developing situation. However, at this point, it's looking more like the U.S. may have to prepare to head to Ufa without the Ottawa first-rounder.

It does seem rather convoluted that a play in the OHL could cost Noesen a chance to be on junior hockey's biggest stage while what Huberdeau did in the QMJHL (which he was sorry for) will not affect his participation. The acts were not apples-to-apples similar, though. It comes down to circumstances and how the two players' respective leagues punish on-ice acts it deems objectionable. The suspensions should be honoured, but one can still feel a bit for Noesen, who's 19 and won't have another chance at the WJC. (Team USA did not bring him to camp in 2012.) Meantime, Team USA should have some forward depth, buoying its chance to weather Noesen's potential absence.

Meantime, what a twist for Ottawa Senators supporters. Coming into the season, there was a plausible chance of all four Sens first-round picks from 2011 and '12 playing in the WJC. The Sennies elected not to release Mika Zibanejad to play for Sweden. Ottawa 67's defenceman Cody Ceci and Kitchener Rangers left wing Matt Puempel were each left out of Canada's selection camp. Now Noesen might be left out for the Americans.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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