The NHL has yet to decide whether it will send its players to the next Olympic Winter Games slated for 2022 in Beijing, but there are several Montreal Canadiens players who could make their national team if the NHL agrees to participate. Some will be virtual locks to represent their country while others have an outside chance of cracking the lineup.
NHL players last participated in the Olympics in Sochi six years ago when Canada took home the gold medal, Sweden won silver and Finland completed the podium with bronze.
Carey Price and Shea Weber Will Lead Team Canada
Montreal’s two pillars were instrumental in Canada’s gold-medal run in 2014 and both will be depended on again in 2022 to provide leadership and share their experience.
In Sochi, Carey Price and the defense corps, featuring Shea Weber, were nothing short of dominant. (from ‘Carey Price shines in first Olympics,’ Globe and Mail, 02/23/2014) The Habs’ netminder gave up three goals in five games and did not allow a puck passed him over the final 164 minutes and 19 seconds of tournament play, including back-to-back shutouts over the United States and Sweden in the semifinals and final. Both teams were undefeated before they faced Canada. Price was named the tournament’s top goaltender in his Olympic debut.
Weber is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. He was also part of the Team Canada that stood atop the podium in Vancouver in 2010.
While the competition will be stiff at every position to make the Canadian squad, Hockey Canada likes to keep their veterans around which is why Price and Weber should get the call again. Not to mention that they both still play at a high level.
Meanwhile, Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault should be up for consideration to fill one of Canada’s forward roles. Gallagher was part of Team Canada during the 2016 World Championships in Russia. Playing alongside Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins, he scored five points in 10 games to help Canada capture gold. His tenacity, drive, and heart would make him a perfect fit in 2022.
Danault has developed into one of the strongest two-way centers in the league and earned some votes for the Selke Trophy following a career season last year. It’s likely that the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron will be Canada’s shutdown center again, but Danault has put himself in the conversation.
Canadiens Finnish Contingent Is Strong
Team Finland could have a distinctly Canadiens flavour with Joel Armia, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Artturi Lehkonen all up for selection.
Armia’s size and strong puck possession will draw interest from the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, plus he played the best hockey of his career this season. He represented his country at the World Junior Championships for three consecutive years, from 2011-13.
Kotkaniemi will be 21 years old when 2022 rolls around, and he will be a great addition up the middle. Playing with Finland’s top wingers would be a valuable experience for the young centre. Kotkaniemi has two medals from the World Under-18 Championships, gold in 2018 and silver in 2017.
For his part, Lehkonen would be an asset at both ends of the ice, and he would complement Finland’s skilled forwards well. The 24-year-old took home gold at the 2014 World Junior Championships as an assistant captain, tallying four points in six games.
Jeff Petry: A Darkhorse Pick for Team USA
The options on defense for Team USA will be plentiful for 2022 with John Carlson, Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Quinn Hughes, and the list goes on.
Still, Jeff Petry deserves to have his name thrown in the mix given his performance over the past few seasons with the Canadiens. He has been a reliable and productive top 4 defenseman who can log heavy minutes and take on a bigger role when called upon. He also thrives playing the up-tempo style that characterizes today’s NHL. If the United States decides to put together a fast, offensive-minded team, he could be an appealing choice to fill the seventh or eighth defenseman slot.
Petry has represented his country three times on the international scene, all at the World Hockey Championships. He was a bronze medalist in 2013.
Tomas Tatar: A Lock If Slovakia Qualifies
If Tomas Tatar hopes to play in his second Olympics, he will first have to help Slovakia qualify for the tournament. If they do qualify, Tatar would likely be a key contributor to their success. In the past two seasons, he has been the top Slovak scorer in the NHL, well ahead of his compatriot Richard Panik of the Washington Capitals.
Tatar has enjoyed the two best seasons of his career with Canadiens, putting up 58 points in 2018-19 and 61 points in 2019-20, despite that the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He suited up for his country at the Sochi Olympics where Slovakia finished eleventh and he played in the World Championships last year on home soil, his fifth tournament. Tatar was also a member of Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016. Through the years, the 29-year-old has scored 11 goals and 25 points as part of Slovakia’s senior national team.
Even though it’s uncertain whether the NHL will return to the Winter Games in 2022, it’s fun to anticipate what could be and how exciting these teams will be to watch if the best players in the world come together again in the name of national pride and in the quest for Olympic glory.