The 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing, China, are fast approaching and the NHL, NHLPA and the IIHF have agreed to allow NHL players to return after the NHL didn’t send any to the 2018 PyeongChang Games. The tournament has returned to the best in the world and the Montreal Canadiens have a few players that could be selected by their respective home nations to play for Olympic Gold.
Carey Price, Team Canada
While Price may be on the downward slope of his career, it would be hard to see Team Canada not have the goaltender that backstopped them to Olympic Gold in 2014 and a 2016 World Cup of Hockey championship. Especially one season removed from leading his NHL team to a Stanley Cup Final.
Price may have had injury issues that have caused him to miss time, but when a game is on the line, he is still one of the best goaltenders in the world, finishing third on the NHLPA’s list of top goaltenders behind Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Canadiens fans may want Price to stay home and rest during the Olympic break so that he is ready to help lead the Habs to a playoff spot, however, players at his level dream of wearing their national colors. Perhaps because he already has won gold, he chooses to stay home and chase that elusive silver chalice. Despite that, he will be in the mix to start for Canada in the 2022 Beijing Games.
Jan Mysak, Team Czech Republic
Adding Mysak on this list may seem odd, considering he is still eligible to play in the under 20 World Junior Championships (WJC) and is a lock to make that team. However, he did play for the main international Czech roster a few times last season and was one of the stronger performers, so he is definitely one to watch.
The young center plays with speed and energy, has an elevated work rate, is a great skater, and can produce offense, something his national team could use. Where Mysak plays this season is still unknown as he is eligible to play with the Laval Rocket this season; however, he will most likely return to the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
Jeff Petry, Team USA
Petry’s strong play over the last few seasons has earned him the right to add his name to the Team USA roster. His consistent production and level of play have seen him rise to the role of top defenseman for the Canadiens. Most importantly, he plays the style of defense that the American squad will likely employ, a mobile, up-tempo transition game.
Playing for his home nation means he is likely to play on a bottom pairing; however, he can play through pain and provide exactly what team USA needs in a short tournament, a highly effective depth that could play an impact role if necessary.
Alexander Romanov, Russian Olympic Committee
Romanov may still be working his way up the Canadiens depth chart, but in Russia, the depth chart works you. Sorry, that’s a bad Yakov Smirnoff joke that only a Gen X will understand. Seriously though, he is already high on the Russian list as he has worked his way up their system, having played in two WJC and winning the top defenceman award in 2019.
Russia is deep at forward and in goal but lacks the depth on defense that would keep a 21-year-old off the roster. He has worked his way up the system, and he also has the skill set they desire. Romanov is a highly mobile defender who can move the puck up ice quickly, which suits Russia’s style of play. One aspect of his game that is different from most other Russian defensemen in contention for a role on this team is his ability to play a physical game. Even on Olympic-sized rinks, this style of game will be necessary to compete against Canada and the USA.
On the Bubble
While those listed above should be locks for their countries, a few players could be selected with a strong showing to start the season.
Cole Caufield, Team USA
Team USA will have a hard time deciding who to add on the wings, but Caufield could add his name to the running with a strong start to the season. He may earn a role as an alternate behind some solid names to play right wing.
Being on the larger Olympic-sized ice surface provides more space for Caufield to find open ice to release his elite shot or find a passing lane for a teammate to take an open shot. While it isn’t expected for the 2021 WJC gold medallist to be selected before the start of the season, injuries, poor play, and other factors could allow him to earn a spot.
Joel Armia, Team Finland
Canadiens fans have seen the importance of Armia’s grinding style of play in the playoffs. That style translates well to a short tournament, especially when he can provide a strong penalty killer to a Finnish roster. Special teams will be important for a team that isn’t expected to be high-scoring. He can also add a puck-possession style while being able to compliment highly skilled wingers.
The Montreal Canadiens can provide several players to national teams, the question as each nation builds their lists is how many will be chosen? Also, how will this affect their seasons? Some players could return re-invigorated and step up their play down the stretch, and others may become fatigued and need rest after their return. There is also the chance of injury. At the very least, there will be good reason for Canadiens fans to watch more than their own Country’s teams during the Olympic Games.