The NHL officially announced that they would be going to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. This means we can now start creating depth charts for what each team may look like. The Vancouver Canucks could feature very prominently during this tournament. With that in mind, here are some of the names that could make their way onto Olympic rosters.
If Elias Pettersson is healthy, he will be on Team Sweden. They will rely heavily on him to bring the offence as he should play top-line minutes and the power play. The biggest question is will he play wing or center? Based on the projected roster, the former Calder Trophy winner may be best suited for the wing, but a strong start to the season at center may help sway Tre Kronor’s decision on where he plays.
A strong first half to the season could be exactly what Oliver Ekman-Larsson needs to put himself in the conversation to make Team Sweden. He has competed for them at almost every level during his career and was part of the silver-winning team back in 2014. Despite his recent regression of play, don’t be surprised if he makes his way on the team come February.
Nils Höglander making the team is a long shot, but if injuries or opt-outs occur, do not be surprised if he gets an invite. This is a player who fights for every opportunity. He was not supposed to be on the Canucks last season, yet somehow found a way to join the team. Add in the fact that he has played 60 games for Sweden at the junior level, and it looks like there may be a spot for the feisty winger when the teams are announced.
Brock Boeser is going to be a key part of USA’s power play during this tournament. He should have the opportunity to play on a line with Dylan Larkin and create a matchup nightmare for whoever goes against them. A strong start to the season could provide enough momentum for him to light up the tournament in Beijing.
After a breakout season with the Canucks, J.T. Miller has planted himself as a must-have on Team USA. He kills penalties, can play wing or center and has that fire in his belly that motivates teammates. The fact that he can win faceoffs is a bonus, as International teams generally like players who can play all three forward positions. Look for the former World Junior gold medal winner to be a big part of the team in February.
Quinn Hughes is going to be relied upon heavily when Team USA hits the ice. Despite their depth on the blue line, he should get some power-play time at the Olympics. Some potential partners could include John Carlson or Adam Fox. Regardless of who he is paired with, look for Hughes to have a big tournament for the red, white and blue.
The battle for the third goaltender on Team USA seems to be coming down to Thatcher Demko, Alex Nedeljkovic and Spencer Knight. What puts Demko above the rest is he has been a full-time starter in the NHL. He also has experience at the junior level and at the World Championship with the Americans. It will be a tough battle, but he should snag that final goaltending spot on the roster.
Team Canada is the most debated team going into the Olympics. We know players like Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and Nathan Mackinnon will be there, but what about players in the bottom six? Bo Horvat’s name keeps coming up and even made Craig Button’s from TSN’s project list. He would be a good addition to this team as he can win faceoffs and help shut down the opposing team’s top lines. If Horvat continues to elevate his game and has a big first half of the season, he could end up on this stacked team come February.
Slovakia was able to find a way into the tournament after winning their qualifier group this past summer. The team has developed some good NHL skaters like Zdeno Chára and Tomáš Tatar, but have struggled with goaltenders. Jaroslav Halák was the only goalie from the country to play in the NHL this past season. The veteran of two Olympics should be their starter at this year’s Olympics.
Some may look at this prediction and say there is no chance Vasili Podkolzin makes it on Team Russia. He was captain of Team Russia’s Euro Hockey Tour team this past season, where he scored eight points in six games. There is an added wrinkle in that the head coach Valeri Bragin, who was his coach this last season, would not give him opportunities higher in the lineup. That being said, if he has a decent start to the season and other stars do not travel, he may get a shot with the team in Beijing.
Some may look at this name and wonder why is he on the list? The answer is very simple. If NHL players can not go for whatever reason, Lukáš Jašek may have the opportunity to compete for his country. Yes, the Canucks do have other players playing overseas, but he may have the best opportunity based on players available from each country. As mentioned, it is a long shot, but he’s someone Canuck fans should keep an eye out for if the NHL pulls the plug on the Olympics.
This is where Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs comes into play. It is safe to assume that Elvis Merzlikins will be Team Latvia’s starting goaltender, but as for his backup, that is a bit unclear. We also do not know how he will play as he only played nine games last season. That being said, two were for Latvia, where he posted a.932% save percentage and 1.93 goals against average in the Deutschland Cup. Regardless, he has a good chance to be on the roster at the Olympics.
Plenty of Options
If the NHL does not opt-out of the Olympics, the Canucks should be well represented. They could even surpass their 2014 total of seven players. The competition will be tough, but we should see some medals return to Vancouver by the end of February.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.