On Sept. 3, news broke that the NHL and NHLPA had come to an agreement with the IIHF and IOC, meaning NHL players will be able to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. 2018 had been the first time in 20 years that the NHL did not participate in the tournament, which earned disappointment from the players.
It is important to note that there is a clause in the agreement that if COVID-19 conditions worsen, the NHL can opt-out of the agreement. But let’s be optimistic and hope that everything will work out just fine.
The Boston Bruins have a number of players that could earn the honor of making their country’s Olympic roster. For this article, I broke them down into three tiers. The first is a list of Bruins players who are shoo-ins for the team, or at least a 99 percent certainty to make the team (things are very, very rarely 100 percent in the world of sports, as we all know). The next tier contains players who are probable to make the roster. They are guys that really should be included, but for one reason or another, they wouldn’t go in the top tier. The final grouping lists guys on the team who have an outside shot of making the Olympic roster. They’ll probably be in the conversation, but will most likely be one of the final cuts.
Canada has a lot of talented players, as we all know, but they would be foolish to leave a guy like Marchand off of the Olympic roster after he reached 100 points in the 2018-19 season, and finished at a 100-point pace in the past two shortened seasons. He may not be the most liked guy outside of Boston, but his talent on the ice is undeniable.
One of the most incredible parts of Marchand’s career has been how much he has improved and hit his stride as he’s gotten older. He has played better in his thirties than he did in his twenties. In 2014, he did not make Team Canada, but eight years later, he is a much better player now than he was then, and should be a no-brainer to make the team.
Marchand plays with a lot of heart and emotion, making him the perfect candidate to play for a national team. It wouldn’t be crazy to think he may come out as the top scorer of the tournament. Crazier things have happened.
McAvoy finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting at the end of last season, and arguably should have finished higher. He was the second-highest American on the final list, which says a lot as there is currently a very talented crop of American defensemen in the league, including Seth Jones, Jaccob Slavin, John Carlson, Quinn Hughes, Zach Werenski, and of course, last season’s Norris winner, Adam Fox.
Team USA is going to have some tough decisions to make on the blue line when deciding their roster, but McAvoy has to be on that list. He had 30 points in 51 games last season, while averaging 24 minutes on the ice and was a plus-22. Beyond the stats, just watching the games, there was a noticeable difference when he was on the ice, and that is the type of player you want in a tournament like the Olympics.
The 23-year-old has had previous success wearing the stars and stripes. He won gold in the World Hockey Challenge at the U17 and U18 levels. In 2017, he was part of the U20 World Junior Championship gold medal team and was named to the tournament All-Star team.
If David Pastrnak doesn’t make the Czech Republic Olympic roster after winning the Czech Player of the Year for a fifth straight year, then nothing in the world makes sense. He is as good of a lock for an Olympic roster as Connor McDavid.
The interesting debate will be whether or not he wears a letter for the Czech team. He has served as an alternate captain for the national team at the U18 level before, and it wouldn’t be crazy to see him with a leadership position.
The tournament will also most likely see him reunited with now-former teammate David Krejci. They may even play on a line together, and that would be a scary line for opponents, given the chemistry they already have.
While he is not technically a Bruin at the moment, I still included Rask on this list, as he is currently an unrestricted free agent, and Boston was the last team he played for. Like the other three players already mentioned, this should be an easy decision for Team Finland.
There is a stipulation with this one, as Rask is currently recovering from hip surgery he had back at the start of the offseason. He’s predicted to be ready in January/February of 2022, so it will be tight. Still, as we saw in the 2021 playoffs, even when he isn’t at 100 percent, he is still a very effective goaltender.
If healthy and cleared to play, Rask is one of the best Finnish goaltenders currently in the league. Juuse Saros on the Nashville Predators is another option as he came on strong last season, but he isn’t the same proven talent as Rask, who is only one year removed from being a Vezina Trophy Finalist. He finished last season with a 2.28 goals against average (GAA) and .913 save percentage (SV%).
Patrice Bergeron is a lock for Team Canada, but he may not necessarily play as a center. They have McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Mark Scheifele, Nathan MacKinnon, John Tavares, and Ryan O’Reilly. You could build an Olympic Gold Medal team around any four of those players at the center position.
Bergeron will make the roster, and he should. Similar to Marchand, he’s only gotten better since the last time NHL players were in the Olympics in 2014. Unlike his teammate, he was on that roster and part of the gold medal winning team.
Given his history with Team Canada and personal success in the league in the eight years since the last Olympics, I believe he should be a lock for the roster. The fact that his usual winger Marchand will probably make the team, also makes it more likely that he’ll be able to play his natural position of center. Still, the center depth for Team Canada is ridiculous.
There is a pretty high chance that Ullmark makes the Olympic roster for Team Sweden, but again, given some of the other talented Swedish goalies in the league, it’s hard to call him an absolute lock. He’d be competing with Jacob Markstrom and Robin Lehner. Most likely, he falls below the two of them but should be the third goaltender on the depth chart.
Ullmark is, of course, a new face to Bruins fans. But, in recent years, he has still managed to put up decent numbers on a very bad Buffalo Sabres team. In 20 games last season, he had a .917 SV% and a 2.63 GAA.
Given Henrik Lundqvist’s recent retirement, the third spot should be his to take. But it’s hard to call him a complete lock for a roster spot.
Like the last two in this section, Zboril will probably make the roster for the Czech Republic as a depth defensemen. While he is still trying to find his footing on the Bruins’ depth chart, the Czech Republic team is not particularly strong on defense. While they’ll have a sneaky good offense, their blue line will not be as strong as other national teams.
He’ll slot in at the bottom of their left shot defenseman depth chart, but Zboril should make the team. Last season, he appeared in 42 games for the Bruins and registered nine assists and 18 penalty minutes. He last played for the Czech national team in 2017 at World Juniors. In five games, he had four assists and was a plus-2.
The Long Shots
As mentioned above, the Czech Republic has a pretty decent group of forwards, and Nosek may be the odd man out. He could make the roster, but most likely, he will be one of the final cuts.
Still, after the best year of his career last season, Nosek can hopefully build on that momentum with his new contract with the Bruins, and put together a good enough start to the 2021-22 season that he might play himself into a roster spot. It might come down to whether or not Ondrej Kase can remain healthy or if Filip Chytil can take a big enough step forward to determine whether or not he’ll get a spot.
So while there is an outside shot he’ll make the roster, it’ll ultimately come down to whether guys above him in the depth chart are able to stay healthy and if he can build on last year’s career season.
There are a lot of great American defensemen in the league, so it would be a real outside shot if Carlo gets in. The best thing he has going for him is that he is a very different defenseman than McAvoy. He’s not going to generate as much offense, but if you need some to lock down your own zone and play good defense, Carlo does that as well as anyone in this league. Stay-at-home defensemen just don’t get as much recognition.
Most likely, Carlo will not make the roster due to his lack of offense. But if there are injuries to American defensemen or if the team decides they have enough offensive defensemen and need someone a little more responsible in their own end, he should get a look at the roster.
Erik Haula is coming off of a good bounce-back season with the Nashville Predators. He had 21 points in 51 games and is looking to continue to build back up to something similar to his 29-goal season in 2017-18 with the Bruins this season. Most likely, his 2021-22 season will not include an Olympic roster berth, but he should be in the conversation.
Team Finland is pretty strong on offense between Aleksander Barkov, Mikko Rantanen, Sebastian Aho, and Roope Hintz. They’re going to be a sneaky good team, and some decent names will probably be left off the roster.
Four years ago, while he was in the middle of his 29-goal campaign, Haula probably would have played himself into a roster spot. But given the young Finns who have come into their own in the league since then and his up and down play, it will probably be a long shot for him to make the roster in 2022. Still, don’t be surprised if his name is in the mix, especially if he plays out of his mind to start the season.
The Olympics Are Coming
The 2022 Olympic Tournament is going to be a great one to watch as a fan of hockey. With so many talented players in the NHL, there are going to be some pretty talented rosters. Don’t be surprised if there is an upset at some point in the tournament, and a surprising name or two may be left off of a roster.
Make sure to check out The Hockey Writers’ projected Olympic Rosters and analysis of how the teams will stack up now, and stay tuned for coverage throughout and leading up to the Olympics this winter.
I’m Hannah Garfield, a graduate of Elon University with degrees in Film and Media Analytics. Currently, I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting at Boston University. I’m a lifelong, passionate Boston sports fan and love all things Bruins.