While I was putting together my rosters for the next Winter Olympics, I often found myself thinking about the bright spots on each team. Russia’s goaltending is crazy good. Germany could actually have a competitive team. Team USA’s fourth line will certainly be entertaining.
So in the competitive spirit of the Olympics, I handed out medals for a variety of categories:
- Best offense
- Best defense
- Best goaltending
- Top power play
- Most entertaining
Of course, these medals were doled out based on my opinion alone. Share your thoughts in the comments section below if you feel I screwed a country out of a medal.
Analysis: Let’s be honest here, Canada is stacked up front, even if they’re a little older than the other Olympic teams. I don’t even know where to begin – they just have so much depth with their forwards.
Having Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Ryan O’Reilly, and Patrice Bergeron down the middle is easily the best center quartet in the league. And if one goes down, Canada can move Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Nathan MacKinnon, John Tavares, or Mark Scheifele to center.
It’s not a stretch to say that this could be Canada’s most talented Olympic team yet. Let’s just hope the NHL lets these players take part in the next Winter Games.
Analysis: From top to bottom, Sweden has the deepest and best overall defense. Led by Victor Hedman, all three of Sweden’s defensive pairings possess a high amount of offensive skill and can be leaned on in their own zone as well.
Just think, Mattias Ekholm and Oscar Klefbom are outside the top-six. Two NHL top-pairing defensemen can’t even crack Sweden’s lineup. And speaking of depth, who would man the point on the power play? All six of their blueliners could conceivably line up with the top power play unit and get the job done.
Analysis: Since it’s voted on rather than awarded based on stats alone, the Vezina Trophy typically possesses an asterisk of subjectivity when it’s handed out at the end of each NHL season. A cold, hard fact, though, is that two of the last three winners are on Russia’s roster.
The question is, who starts for the Russians – a Vezina winner in Andrei Vasilevskiy or Sergei Bobrovsky? Or up-and-coming netminder Igor Shestyorkin? By 2022, there’s a good chance that all three will be elite NHL goaltenders capable of backstopping Russia to an Olympic medal. Goaltending depth is certainly a nice luxury to have and Russia has it in spades.
Most Dangerous Power Play
Gold: Canada (Crosby, McDavid, MacKinnon, Stamkos, Makar)
Silver: Russia (Ovechkin, Panarin, Kucherov, Malkin, Provorov)
Bronze: USA (Matthews, Eichel, Kane, M. Tkachuk, Hughes)
Analysis: This was a toss up. Not only do the three countries above possess lethal power plays, Finland does as well (Laine, Barkov, Aho, Rantanen, Heiskanen).
Canada gets the gold because of their elite hockey IQ across the board and extraordinary vision. Consider their setup: Connor McDavid and Steven Stamkos on their off-wings, Nathan MacKinnon in the slot, Cale Makar up top, and Sidney Crosby cruising around the net. Honestly, “elite” doesn’t do that power play unit justice. Plus, all five skaters are capable of firing home one-timers and snapping it around perfectly. Simply put, don’t take a penalty against Canada.
Analysis: With a young, talented squad, Team USA will be a must-watch at the next Winter Olympics. This team will be built on speed and creativity, with Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel leading the way. In addition, most of Team USA’s defensemen regularly join the rush – Zach Werenski and Seth Jones frequently operate around the net in the offensive zone.
Overall, this is going to be a high-scoring team with plenty of finesse to go around. Oh, and the Tkachuk brothers mauling opponents at their leisure. “Conservative” just isn’t in this team’s vocabulary.
Apart from Team USA, Russia’s dynamic offense will be fun to watch, especially on the power play. Germany should be intriguing as well with their young talent and Leon Draisaitl imposing his will all over the ice.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.