For the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL regular season is mercifully nearing its conclusion. This was not a season for the fans to remember, as highlights were few and far between. The steady play of Nick Suzuki and the resurgence of Cole Caufield are two of the only aspects worthy of a spotlight this season.
With the Canadiens being eliminated so early in the season, it allows for players to look ahead at the offseason and make plans for their training or, if they are invited, to play for their national teams at the 2022 Men’s World Hockey Championships (WC) in Finland starting May 13.
Despite the poor showing this season as a team by the Canadiens, there are likely to be a few players on the roster or in the system that could earn an invitation to their national programs.
The most obvious choice to represent Team USA from the Canadiens’ roster is that of Caufield. It is highly likely he will suit up for the stars and stripes when invited. He has been one of the top American goal scorers to graduate from their development program, and his skill set would be a welcome addition to any team looking to add scoring. It also helps that he has rediscovered his confidence in the second half of the NHL season, scoring 19 goals since the arrival of Martin St. Louis as the Canadiens’ interim head coach.
Another possible selection for the Americans is that of defenceman Jeff Petry. When he is playing well, he provides a team with an excellent two-way defender. However, he has struggled this season. He is experienced at the international level, winning a Bronze Medal at the WC, but he hasn’t suited up for his national team since the 2014 WC tournament.
American goaltender Cayden Primeau could get an invite as the third goaltender, but he will be needed for the American Hockey League (AHL) Laval Rocket’s playoff push and is unlikely to be available until later in the tournament, if at all.
Jordan Harris is another possible American invitee. He has represented Team USA at the 2020 World Juniors Championships (WJC), but like Primeau, he will be added to the Laval Rocket roster to be used for their playoff push and is unlikely to be available until later in the tournament.
Carey Price, returning to play near the end of the season (he’s receiving treatment again right now) and playing well despite the lack of offensive support, has stated that he will not participate in the tournament.
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Nick Suzuki has already stated that he will consider representing Canada if he were invited.
While Suzuki hasn’t missed a game in his NHL career, he has been missing several practices and every morning skate to rest and receive some form of medical treatment. While he does state he is interested, his statement that he would “consider” the invitation could point to him knowing his injuries could hinder his participation in the tournament.
Brendan Gallagher – prior national team play (a WJC Bronze medal in 2012, a WC Gold medal in 2016) — would likely be added for his work ethic and ability to attack the net and forecheck in Canada’s bottom-six. With his subpar season, he would likely decide to accept the invitation if it came to prove to himself and his detractors that he can still produce and compete.
Josh Anderson may also be a possible candidate. He is on pace to have a 20 goals season, and that means something when playing on one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL. While fan expectation for him has been high, he is still one of the few true power forwards in the league and has provided what is expected of someone in his role.
He has only represented Canada once internationally at the 2014 WJC. Adding him to Team Canada provides that rare style of play in a player capable of being in the top-six, and if added to a lineup with Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals, the Canadian team would become a very fearsome physical team.
There are fewer European players in the Canadiens’ system that could get targeted by their national teams to represent their home nations, but that doesn’t mean there are none. Like anyone else, those named are possible additions to their national programs, but their health and club teams’ playoff success will heavily influence their decision to participate.
Due to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Russian team has been expelled from this tournament. But if there were a team, Alexander Romanov would have to be considered a possibility for their blue line. The tournament is taking place on NHL-sized rinks, and his style of play is suited perfectly to the quicker play and physical style that goes with that.
Despite only having 14 points in 60 games this season, Joel Armia has shown flashes of what he can do for a team. Like last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, he can be a dominant possession player, winning board battles to gain possession, then using his large frame and excellent puck handling skills. He can retain possession until he can get the puck to an open area that was left open by a defender leaving their post to assist a teammate to defend Armia.
Currently, he is on personal leave from the team dealing with an unknown urgent family issue at home in Finland. If that is rectified prior to the start of the tournament and he gets invited, he would be motivated to prove he can win.
Jan Mysak has played professionally for the Laval Rocket, also in his homeland of Czechia and represented his nation in several international tournaments. The Canadiens’ 2020 second-round pick is coming off of his most productive season so far, scoring 34 goals and 64 points in 61 games played for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Hamilton Bulldogs. The wrinkle here is that his club team is in the midst of the first round of the playoffs and is expected to challenge for the OHL title.
Also, it is possible that an early exit could mean he gets assigned to Laval of the AHL, who have just clinched a playoff spot for the first time in team history. If the Rocket get eliminated early, or the Canadiens organization sees the WC as a better path to development, he could be a great option for the Czechian top-six.
It’s possible Mattias Norlinder gets selected for the Swedish National team. His skill set as a mobile, puck-moving defenseman and skillful puck distributor would be a bonus for a national program that hasn’t won a gold medal in the tournament since 2018. Currently, his club team in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) is still in the playoffs. Even if invited, it isn’t a sure bet that he would accept as it has been a long season for Norlinder, who has played in several leagues — the NHL, AHL and now the SHL — since August.
The Canadiens’ season may be coming to an end, but Habs fans can still get their hockey fix cheering on their own players. Laval is still in the AHL playoffs, there are prospects scattered among the Canadian Hockey League playoffs, but the WC provides NHL roster players an opportunity to play for their national programs. It also gives Canadiens fans a high level of hockey and entertainment that they won’t get to see in this year’s NHL playoffs.