While there has been lots of recent discussion about possible NHL playoff formats to finish the 2022 season, we have been thinking about another longterm tournament: The 2022 Olympics. While future Collective Bargaining Agreements will decide whether NHL players will be in the Olympics or not, it is still a fun exercise to go through the major teams, and try to look ahead to predict what their rosters look like.
This week we will previewing the major countries and who might be on their next Olympic roster, starting today with Canada. For each team we are predicting thirteen forwards, seven defensemen, three goalies, and one extra reserve skater.
This Canadian team will look plenty different from past versions, both in style and in personnel. The top end of this team is just dripping with speed and skill. With Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon likely to make their debuts on the Olympic team, the Canadians will have one of the most dynamic lines in recent hockey history.
But on the flip side, past versions of Team Canada (2014 Olympics and 2016 World Cup of Hockey) have been characterized by stellar defensive play and lights out goaltending from Carey Price. Many of the stalwarts on the blue line will be gone next time around, and Price hasn’t been at the height of his powers in recent seasons. Still though, with the amount of skill up front, this team has to be considered the favourite to defend their title from the last NHL Olympics. Lets get into my prediction of the Canadian lineup, beginning with the forwards.
I have five locks. These guys are no brainers, no questions asked, no discussion is involved. These are the five.
I do not need to explain this one to Flames fans after MacKinnon’s dominating performance in the playoffs last year. The guy is probably the second fastest player in the league after McDavid (who in this scenario would be his line-mate) and together they would produce the most ridiculous combination of speed and skill on planet earth. Goodness me. Go Canada.
Bergeron is the perfect player. Crosby is a virtual lock to be the captain and is still one of the most feared players in the world. Marchand is a lock anyways, but playing with Sid is a big deal to get on Team Canada (looking at you Chris Kunitz). Together this line starred at the 2016 World Cup, and Bergeron and Marchand have continued dominance in Boston. Look to this line to be a ridiculous line 1A.
This is a category for those who argue that the team should not be built solely on points and needs to employ guys who can play defense. For the purposes of this list, I think there are two guys who fill this space.
Couturier might surprise some on this list but he shouldn’t. Before the shutdown, Couturier was carrying the play, with a 56.25% CF%, one of the best marks in the league. He finished seventh in voting for the Selke trophy last year as the best defensive forward. A little hint… five of the six guys ahead of him are also on the team.
One of those guys is Ryan O’Reilly who actually won the Selke award for his work during the regular season prior to his Stanley cup run. He went on to also win the Conn Smythe award, establishing himself as one of the best in the game.
Mark Stone finished second in Selke voting as a winger last year. That is insane. At even strength this season, Stone is fourth in the league in takeaways. That is an excellent trait as a depth winger on this team who won’t be relied upon a ton to score.
As shown through his success playing alongside Mitch Marner, Tavares is excellent at playing with speed and skill. He is one of the best finishers in the game, and should get plenty of opportunities with this crew.
Scheifele has quietly become one of the best two way centres in the league. Before the shutdown this season he had seventy three points in seventy one games. He is a perfect depth forward for this team.
Point is on the team in large part due to the ninety-two point season he put together last season. He was on a good pace this year too, with sixty two points in sixty five games, and at just twenty four years of age, his best years are still ahead of him.
At the time of the tournament, Stammer will be thirty two, but the guy can still play. His point production is still elite, and imagine this potentially playing on the second power play? Sheesh. Get Stammer the puck at the top of the circle, and let his one timer unite Canadians from coast to coast.
Marner is a real wild card on this team. He kind of reminds me of Claude Giroux as a a smaller guy. Giroux never got his chance on the Olympic team, but Marner just might. He is the thirteenth forward on this team because Point has chemistry with Stamkos, but Marner could slot in anywhere in the lineup and make some magic happen.
This is obviously more of a projection, but with the way rookies break into the league these days it isn’t that crazy. Lafreniere is expected to go first overall in the NHL entry draft, and could make an early push to be a reserve on this team.
I had a much harder time with the D corps, because so many of the familiar faces on the Canadian blue line will not be on the next team. Even some new names to the Canadian mix will be likely too old by the time 2022 rolls around.
One of the only returners back here, Pietrangelo is at the top of his game. He had fifty two points at the time of the shutdown, good for sixth in the league among d-men. He will be thirty two when the tournament happens, but hard to see a corps get built without Pietrangelo.
This guy is a beast. He had thirty nine points this season on a terrible Ottawa team, and had fifty five the year before (on a terrible Ottawa team). On top of that he is only twenty three years old, and still getting better. He gets bonus points for his skating ability, a must have trait when playing against the other dynamic teams in this tournament.
Originally I had him penciled in as the seventh defensemen, but on more thought he will be somewhere in the top six. He is just so skilled. Fifty points in fifty seven games this season as a rookie. That is ridiculous. Not only is he on the team, but he is my undercover pick to make the all-tournament team. He is that good.
I know, this might be a tough one for Flames fans. But Dougie deserves to be on this team. He had 44 in just 47 games this year, so his offensive production is elite. His distribution skills will also come in handy with the loaded front end of this squad.
I think team Canada wants to keep an even number of right and left shots, so in this version our team needs at least two more lefties. Theodore is another young, mobile guy who was top ten in defensive scoring. Put him on the team.
At this point I think this team will just try to score as many goals as humanly possible. Rielly is another dynamic offensive talent on the back end who will make the stars up front look good. Holy moly this team can skate.
I thought about Kris Letang here, but I think we need some more defensive players. Not that Parayko is not good offensively, but he can kill penalties and give a more physical presence. He slots in right now as the seventh guy.
I know, Mark Giordano is not on the list. He would be if the tournament was tomorrow, but it isn’t. Gio will be thirty eight when the tournament happens, and there is a reasonable chance he has lost a step by then. Remember this is Team Canada we are talking about, so it does not take much to get removed from the list. Ditto for Brent Burns. Other guys in the running include Kris Letang, Ryan Murray, and Aaron Ekblad.
This is always a contentious issue. I am going with the trend that being the goalie of Team Canada is yours until it isn’t. I think Carey Price starts the next major tournament for Team Canada. The second goalies are up for debate.
Said it above, but the job is Price’s until he falters. He has been money in past events for the Canadian side.
Hart is my young contender to take over the reigns from Price. He was highly touted coming into the NHL with the Flyers, but he has delivered. With a 2.42 GAA, and .914 SV%, Hart’s numbers were some of the very best among Canadian keepers. Keep in mind that the tournament in two years will give him some more time to develop as well, which could be scary.
The best goalies are often the ones who are playing well at the time, and Binnington has been on an impressive run over the last few months. With backstopping the Blues to the Stanley Cup, Binnington put his name in rare company. I think he is the third goalie in this situation, but when he gets hot he can compete with the best.
Agree with my picks? Think I missed someone? Let me know your thoughts @jdonville13 on twitter.