The 2021-22 NHL schedule features an Olympic break, signaling that the NHL players will likely head to the Winter Olympics in February 2022.
The St. Louis Blues have a diverse roster, as do many NHL teams, with players that could play for their country in this event. The last time the NHL had players go to the Olympics, we saw Canada defeat Sweden in the Gold Medal Match. That happened in 2014, a difference of eight years between the last time NHL players could play, and this coming year.
Ryan O’Reilly, Jordan Binnington – Canada
The Canadian squad for the Beijing Olympics will be loaded, there is no question about that. Ryan O’Reilly makes a lot of sense to be a third-or-fourth-line winger, or center for them.
Our THW Team Canada projected roster has O’Reilly as the third-line center, which would be a perfect fit as the center behind Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. The linemates for O’Reilly in the projection are Brayden Point and Mark Stone, making for a high-end defensive line with an exorbitant amount of skill.
Team Canada will be the best of the best when it comes to two-way forwards, O’Reilly alongside Stone, Sean Couturier, Patrice Bergeron, and more. Leadership skills are everywhere with this team too, O’Reilly is a big part of that as a veteran who has been a constant performer in his long NHL career. He absolutely deserves to be on this team and with Blues’ general manager Doug Armstrong picking the team, it will most likely happen.
As for Jordan Binnington, he is a potential goaltender for Canada, as Armstrong may want to add somebody he trusts in the net behind a loaded roster. Binnington’s last few seasons have been among the best in all Canadian goaltenders in the NHL.
The projection has Binnington alongside Carey Price and Carter Hart, but I believe that could be different by the time the games roll around. We could see somebody like Marc-Andre Fleury or Darcy Kuemper get a roster spot. Binnington should be one of the three chosen; the connection to Armstrong does nothing but help his case to fill a roster spot for the Olympic favorites.
Torey Krug – United States
The United States hockey team is expected to have a loaded and youthful blueline in the Olympics. A lot for head coach Mike Sullivan to work with, more than in years past. Torey Krug could play a big part in this, as he is a veteran among many young players, his puck-moving ability is off the charts, and he would be able to play next to anybody. He makes the cut on THW projection for the United States team.
Krug has scored over 30 points in all eight of his NHL seasons, including going over 40 points six different times. He has the reputation as one of the best puck movers from the back-end in the entire league. Our projection has Krug paired with Ryan Suter as a fourth pair of a couple of players that may not be in the starting lineup but on the roster.
The idea of Krug on the same blueline as Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox will make for some absurd puck movement, elite offensive play on the back-end, an advantage that the U.S. can use. Either way, I’d expect the U.S. team to be looking for that typical youth and veteran mix, Krug fits into that model for sure.
Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, Ivan Barbashev – Russia
This is the big one, as the Blues could have three players on the Russian team. The big factor here is whether Vladimir Tarasenko is a Blue or not when the Olympics come around.
The Russian squad will be loaded on the wings with Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich behind the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Kirill Kaprizov, and others if they all play of course. The projection from THW for Russia has Ivan Barbashev anchoring the third line, with Tarasenko and Kaprizov on the wings, and with a lack of center depth on the team, Barbashev could have a larger role.
The projection also has Buchenvich playing with Mikhail Grigorenko and Ilya Kovalchuk, making for a big body line with lots of skill on the wing.
It’s almost underrated at this point with how loaded the Russian forward group could, so much high-end skill and scoring ability with great potential goaltending as well.
All in all, we could see up to six players from the Blues head to Beijing for the Olympics, unless the NHL decides not to attend, which could still happen. There are sleeper picks from this team as well, Oskar Sundqvist for Sweden or Colton Parayko for Canada, if he has a monster first-half of the 2021-22 season, but that isn’t likely.
In my opinion, it would be incredible for the NHL to attend the Beijing Olympics, but we’ll have to see if they can get an agreement to make it happen.
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Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.