After the NHL and NHLPA jointly agreed to pull out of the 2022 Beijing Olympics due to COVID concerns and postponed games, men’s Olympic national teams had to rework their roster options, which led to a few familiar faces set to represent their home countries on international ice. But just because Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby won’t be donning the maple leaf doesn’t mean you shouldn’t switch on the Olympics to catch Team Canada. After all, some of these old friends are former Anaheim Ducks (including one youngster still within the organization) who will be wearing the red and white for the Olympics.
Here are the top five familiar faces that Ducks fans need to keep their eye on during the Olympic games on Team Canada.
When I said familiar faces, I meant that some of these are also “blink and you’ll miss it” faces. Alex Grant, a 33-year-old right-shot defenseman, played just two games for the Ducks in the 2013-14 season. Grant was selected in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in the fourth round at 118th overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He never hit the ice in a Penguins jersey; instead, he made his way through the American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL before making his NHL debut for the Ducks in 2013.
He may not have reached great heights in the NHL, but his huge, strong shot, physicality, and presence on the special teams will be a welcome addition to the Canadian team’s depth. Grant has played the last four seasons with Helsingin Jokerit of the KHL and has one goal and two assists in his last five games.
Adam Cracknell is an older member of the Canadian squad at 36 years of age. A flexible forward, he can slot into either the right wing or center position. His adaptability is a lucrative feature, as his defensively-minded playing style means he’s strong on the backcheck as well as the forecheck. The Calgary Flames drafted Cracknell in the ninth round (279th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut in 2010 for the St. Louis Blues, but it wasn’t until the 2018-19 season that he played for the Ducks. Like Grant, Cracknell played just two games for the Ducks, but he spent 32 games with their AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls, that season and totaled 28 points (15 goals and 13 assists).
Cracknell is likely still a familiar face for any Gulls fan, as he’s played the entirety of the 2021-22 season thus far with the Bakersfield Condors. In his last five games, he has an impressive five goals and two assists for a total of seven points.
Yet more proof the Canadian roster is trending towards the older side of the spectrum. At 34 years old, Street is another multi-purpose forward, playing both the center and left wing. Another two-way skater, he’s a dependable scorer and reliable teammate who adds to Team Canada’s forward depth. Street went undrafted and spent five years in the NCAA for the University of Wisconsin before making his NHL debut in the 2012-13 season for the Flames. Since then, he’s fluctuated between the NHL and AHL before making his way to the Ducks franchise for the 2018-19 season. He split that year between the NHL and AHL, earning just five points (three goals, two assists) in 21 games for the Ducks.
Street is currently playing for the EHC Red Bull Munchen of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Germany. In his last five games for the club, he has two goals and one assist.
In any other scenario, being over 35 wouldn’t be old. But in hockey, it’s practically ancient, although Team Canada has decided that 36 is the new 16. Winnik (36) joins the team as a left-handed shot center. He was selected by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (265th overall) in the ninth round. He made his debut for the team in 2007-08 and stuck with the franchise throughout the 2009-10 season before bouncing around the NHL to seven other teams over the next eight years. One such stop was with the Ducks, where he played two seasons, spanning from 2012 to 2014. Winnik isn’t a flashy player by any means, but he gets the job done. And when throwing a mostly untested roster onto international ice, a veteran presence and dependable, mature mentality is always a safe bet.
Winnik has spent the past four seasons (and two wearing the A) playing for Geneve-Servette HC in the Swiss National League. In his last five games, he has three goals and two assists.
I saved the best for last — Mason McTavish, the future of the franchise. You may be more used to envisioning McTavish alongside the likes of Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale. His hockey IQ is far beyond his 19 years, and his ability to create time and space on offensive rushes is phenomenal. As a developing center, he’s still working on finding the direct ability necessary to drive plays consistently. Still, his net-front presence and on-ice explosivity go a long way in solidifying his offensive prowess. Team Canada will be relying heavily on the speed and energy of their few young players, which means that McTavish will likely find himself with a larger amount of ice-time to play with.
McTavish was the third overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, which will undoubtedly make some of his Team Canada teammates feel old. He’s under contract through the 2023-24 season at a cap hit of $925,000, but his Olympic performance will give the Ducks even more of an introduction to his potential for the team.
McTavish made his NHL debut for the Ducks earlier this season, playing nine games at the NHL level (two goals, one assist, for three points), before playing three games at the AHL level (one goal, one assist). The Ducks eventually sent him back to the OHL, first with the Peterborough Petes, then the Hamilton Bulldogs. In his last five games, he has a whopping six goals and six assists for a total of 12 points.
There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Olympic hockey, even if the top NHLers won’t be making an appearance. For one, it gives a greater opportunity to check in on prospects like McTavish, who will be undoubtedly returning to the Ducks’ lineup sooner rather than later. For another, it gives NHL teams another glance at some older players who may have a few more years in them at the NHL level to offer, like Cracknell. Regardless of which team you’re rooting for, Team Canada will be a must-watch for any Ducks fan who wants to keep an eye on these five Ducks-affiliated players.
Covers the Anaheim Ducks for The Hockey Writers. Host of This Is Hockey Culture, a Fear The Fin Podcast, and journalist for Fear The Fin. Created Off The Ice, the first and only hockey sports news media show and digital source that covers men’s and women’s professional hockey equally. Former board member and Media Relations Coordinator for The Sports Shot, a popular multimedia platform dedicated to highlighting women’s professional sports in North America, now Women’s Sports Alliance. Created FNews Magazine’s, (an award-winning multimedia arts and culture magazine), first sports section and first sports column, and hosted Out Of Bounds, an Fnews sports podcast.