While there was uncertainty surrounding whether or not the NHL would allow their players to compete in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, those details have been worked out at long last, which means many of the league’s best players can dazzle on one of the biggest stages in the world. As the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning features a ton of talent that Olympic general managers will love to add to their rosters.
Before we talk about players, however, we should talk about head coach John Cooper, who will be behind the bench for Team Canada. For Cooper, coaching Canada will be one more accolade to add to his already impressive resume, which includes two Stanley Cups, a Presidents’ Trophy, and a Calder Cup.
However, once you get past Cooper, there will be a laundry list of Lightning players who should make an impact for their home countries. So, as the Lightning prepare for the 2021-22 regular season, let’s skip ahead a few months and look towards February to see who could represent the franchise in the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.
ROC Will Draw Heavily From Lightning
Over the years, the Lightning have done an exceptional job at scouting talent out of Russia, through both the draft and through trades. This has led the franchise to boast three prominent players who will represent the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in Beijing. They are, of course, forward Nikita Kucherov, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, and defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
Normally predicting three players from one starting roster making a major team like the ROC would be a bit of a stretch, but it seems unlikely that an elite scorer, arguably the best goaltender in the world, and a top, young defenseman would get passed over. So, the Lightning will be well represented by their elite core of Russian players in the 2022 Olympics.
Hedman Is a Lock for Team Sweden
Perhaps the most secure Olympic selection from the Lightning will be none other than Victor Hedman. Over the last five seasons, he has been one of the best defensemen in the entire NHL, winning the 2018 Norris Trophy while being nominated for the award five times. Given this, Hedman should be a minute-eating force for Team Sweden, and if he has a strong Olympics, it could help his home country compete for the Gold.
Lightning Will See Representation With Team Czech Republic
One of the more interesting nations to watch for the Lightning will be the Czech Republic. Over the last decade, the franchise has housed Ondrej Palat, who has been one of the countries’ unexpected stars. Given his reliable top-six play in both the offensive and defensive zones, there’s no doubt that he will be on Team Czech Republic come February.
On defense, Tampa Bay should have at least one more player make Team Czech Republic. While he may not be a household name, Jan Rutta has been a solid defenseman for the Lightning that has taken on ice time alongside Hedman in some of the biggest games in franchise history. So, he could easily take on top-four minutes on the blue line, which would make him a solid addition to the roster.
Also, with Andrej Sustr returning to the Lightning this offseason, it’s possible that the franchise could see another one of their defensemen playing in the Olympics. Sustr was on the Czech International Team the last two seasons, after all, and he started for them in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, so he has a history playing in international games for his home nation.
McDonagh Could Be a Stalwart for Team USA
When it comes to discussing Team USA, the Lightning’s only likely player to crack the lineup is Ryan McDonagh. Since he joined Tampa Bay in 2018, McDonagh has been an absolute workhorse for the franchise, playing key minutes in both the regular season and playoffs. Even against stiff competition, he should crack the USA’s roster without much of a problem.
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Outside of McDonagh, the Lightning might not have another player on Team USA. With the departure of Blake Coleman, the next most prominent US-born player is Ross Colton, who would be a longshot to make the Olympic team. However, after scoring the 2021 Stanley Cup-winning goal, there’s a chance he could ride that momentum to a hot start that can’t be ignored by the Team USA general manager Stan Bowman.
Team Slovakia Has a Young Stud in Cernak
At only 24 years old, Erik Cernak will factor into the future of Team Slovakia for years to come. Given his defensive playstyle, he likely won’t be turning any heads at the Olympics, but he has experience on the biggest stages and confidence in his play that could help him lead his country to a surprise upset. So, while he may be young, Cernak should be an integral part of Team Slovakia in Beijing.
Point and Stamkos Should Get Calls From Team Canada
For Team Canada, the Lightning feature two players who could make the roster; Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos. Over the last three seasons, both have made their cases as being true superstars, with Point and Stamkos scoring 40 goals each in their last full NHL season.
Of the two, I would only consider Point to be a lock on the roster. Even if Stamkos is still an elite sniper, his struggles with injury have caused his recent scoring totals to dip, which could cause him to be overlooked. While he is still more than talented enough to make the roster, with how deep Team Canada is, there will be some elite forwards who ultimately get snubbed.
However, it feels like it is time for Stamkos to get his chance at the Olympic Games after injury stole it from him in 2014. It would be a shame if he were left off the roster, as this will be one of his last opportunities to represent Team Canada in his career.
Lightning Will Be Well Represented at the 2022 Beijing Olympics
While there is a lot of hockey to be played between now and the start of the 2022 Olympic Games, barring major injuries or unforeseen circumstances, the Lightning will be well represented at the Games. The team has done an incredible job assembling talent from all over the hockey world, and this will be shown once again as they could have as many as 11 starters taking the ice in Beijing.