Canadiens Fans Have Reason to Watch Olympics with Sean Farrell Invite

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Beijing are fast approaching. For years, hockey fans, especially in North America, had hoped to see their favorite hockey stars wear their national colors and compete for Olympic gold. However, with the NHL and NHLPA backing out of the Olympics due to several factors, some of which are directly related to COVID protocol concerns, the tournament is no longer going to boast having star power like Alex Ovechkin, or be called a “best on best” tournament.

Alex Ovechkin scoring his 700th goal
Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin scoring his 700th goal, Feb. 22, 2020 (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The change left all of the major hockey nations scrambling to round out their teams, and several nations have yet to announce their rosters. Russia will be using Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) players, such as Mikhail Grigorenko, to fill its roster, and has already provided for an Olympic Break in their schedule. Czechia also will use European professionals.

Team USA has decided to go with mostly youth and skill, returning to a method used in their 1980 Miracle Run team by relying mostly upon NCAA players.

Sean Farrell Nomination

One such NCAA player is Sean Farrell, the Canadiens’ fourth-round draft choice in 2020, who is one of 15 college players named to the U.S. team. With this nomination, Sean Farrell has more Olympic appearances than Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews combined. This is a fun stat to point out, and while technically true, does point to the fact that the tournament will sadly be missing out on star power. 

Related: NHL Should Skip Olympics in Favor of World Cup of Hockey

Last season, he played for the Chicago Steel in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and scored 101 points in 53 games, leading his team to the league title while earning himself league honors as the USHL player of the year. This output led Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield to declare him a Steal when he was drafted by the Habs.

This season, Farrell is a freshman left winger at Harvard who is second on the team in points with 19 points, including a team-leading eight goals in 13 games played. Another reason for his selection could be his chemistry with teammate and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nick Abruzzese

He also brings experience as a member of the US National Training and Development Program as well as in international play, having represented the US as a member of the under 18 World Juniors team, several seasons.

Farrell Brings Skill

Why would a Freshman be selected to represent his country instead of some more experienced players? Well, Farrell’s game is based on speed and skill. He is an offensive player who is currently scoring at 1.46 points per game pace. He leads his Harvard Crimson squad in goals scored, and is second on the team in total points.

While Farrell may be undersized at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, he compensates well with his speed, edgework, and offensive skill set. He is adept at scoring goals using a wide array of shots, and doesn’t rely on only one type, choosing instead to use shot variety with wrist shots, snapshots, slap shots, and one-timers. Using different releases like that for most players could mean a loss of accuracy, however, Farrell is very accurate, able to identify and pick any opening a goaltender provides him.

Sean Farrell USNTDP
Sean Farrell, USA NTDP (Credit: Rena Laverty)

He’s also a playmaker. He is capable of using his mobility to create space and passing lanes, then moving the puck quickly. He uses this skill best in small area plays, allowing him to either generate a cycle or, a give-and-go play with a teammate.

For a player of his physical stature, Farrell is surprisingly good in battles for loose pucks, despite his lack of size. He can’t rely on physicality to win puck battles like Canadiens power forward Josh Anderson would, but instead uses his speed to close gaps quickly, and good body and stick positioning to provide little to no time or space for his opposition to gain control and generate a play. This has made him effective at forcing turnovers on the fore-check, and once an opponent makes a mistake, he uses that turnover to transition it into a scoring chance.

Farrell’s addition to Team USA for the Olympics provides him a wonderful opportunity to take his game to another level. While he does have experience playing internationally, it has been against his peers, other amateur players of his age group. Now, he will be facing off against professionals from around the world who have the advantage of experience and size. If he can translate his style of play to this short tournament, even in a depth role, it would help him gain confidence.

Canadiens fans now have a reason to watch beyond national pride, as they can get to see how one of their young prospects fares in a challenging situation. Also, it could be to watch history repeat itself as the US and Russia renew international rivalries, with Russia being the favorites, and the US playing the role of underdog. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to have them play the legendary Herb Brooks pre-game speech before playing their rivals.

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