Fans of the Colorado Avalanche will have a lot to watch when the men’s ice hockey tournament in the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Bejing open on February 9. While team rosters are not yet set, projections show as many as eight Avalanche players are likely to participate in the games.
This is the first time in eight years that NHL players will participate in the Olympics, and while it seems increasingly likely it will happen, it’s still not a done deal. The NHL has until early January to opt out of the games with no penalty. After that date, the league will incur a financial penalty from backing out.
The major issue continues to be COVID. The Ottawa Senators just canceled three games, and rising breakthrough cases for vaccinated individuals are stark reminders that the pandemic is still very much in play. The league could make a decision that it’s simply too risky to expose players to travel, the Olympic Village, and more. But the closer the games get, the more likely the participation of the NHL seems.
There are twelve teams participating in the games, divided into three groups:
|Group A||Group B||Group C|
|United States||Czech Republic||Sweden|
Each group will play three games (each team plays the other two once), with the winner of each group, along with the next highest ranking team, getting a bye from the next round.
Three Avalanche Forwards on Top Lines
Projecting team rosters is a lot like forecasting Oscar winners. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and while there is great overlap in those opinions, no two are quite the same. Most projections have three members of the Avalanche playing on the number one line of three serious medal contenders.
Canada — Connor McDavid, Sydney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon
Finland — Patrick Laine, Aleksander Barkov, and Mikko Rantanen
Sweden — Gabriel Landeskog, Elias Pettersson, and William Nylander
Finland and Sweden, both in Group C, will face each other in the first round, and each team will make a serious run at not only a medal, but at gold. Team Canada is, not surprisingly, the early favorite to win.
Other Avalanche forwards likely to make the 22-man Olympic rosters of forwards and defensemen are Andre Burakovsky (Sweden) and Valeri Nichushkin (ROC). While each of these players is on the bubble, it would be a surprise to see either left off their home country’s roster.
One player who has not appeared on any projections, but is doing his best to play his way into the Olympic Games, is Nazem Kadri. With seven goals (three of them power-play goals), 18 assists, and a plus/minus of plus-6 through 16 games, Kadri’s start to this season has been the best of his career. Unfortunately, the depth of Team Canada will make it all but impossible for the London, Ontario native to make the squad.
Only One Avalanche Defender Going to Beijing
The Avalanche have one of the deepest defensive cores in the league, but, surprisingly, most projections have only one player, Cale Makar (Canada) making an Olympic squad. A case could be made for any or all of Erik Johnson (United States), Bowen Byram (Canada). Samuel Girard (Canada), and Devon Toews (Canada), but none are likely to get the invitation to China.
Byram — whose recent injury and loss of playing time has made it unlikely he’ll earn a spot — Girard, and Toews face the same issue as Kadri. With Aaron Ekblad and Alex Pietrangelo projected as the third line for Team Canada, there just isn’t enough room for the plethora of excellent Canadien defenders in the league.
Kuemper Has Stiff Competition to Make the Games
Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper has a very good chance to make the Canadian Team, and, with Carey Price still off the ice, could possibly be tapped at the number one netminder for the games. But there is no lack of talented Canadian goaltenders competing with Kuemper. Other Canadian goalies vying for one of the team’s three roster spots include Jordan Binnington, Marc-Andre Fluery, Tristan Jarry, and Cam Talbot.
Colorado’s back-up goaltender, Pavel Francouz, suffered a sprained ankle in the pre-season and has yet to play this year. If healthy, he projects to make the team for the Czech Republic.
Final rosters for national teams will be announced in January.
The first scheduled match in men’s ice hockey at the 2022 Olympic Games will take place in Beijing at 4:40 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Feb. 9 (1:40 a.m. Mountain Time) between the ROC and Switzerland. The gold medal game is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 20 at 12:10 p.m. in Beijing (9:10 p.m. Mountain Time, Saturday, February 19), and it’s very likely Avalanche fans will have at least one rooting interest in that contest.
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Hockey dad, beer league hockey captain, rabid Avalanche fan. Author of five novels for young adults, including The Scar Boys, Life in a Fishbowl, and Hard Wired. Lives in Littleton, Colorado with two middle school-age kids, one awesome wife, and three pets. Voted least likely to break 100 on a golf course.