The NHL has announced that it has reached an agreement to allow its players to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. In the wake of this news, the Seattle Kraken has several candidates to represent the team for their home countries at the games. Here are the locks, likely participants, and longshots to appear in next year’s Olympics.
Philipp Grubauer, Germany
Seattle’s franchise goaltender has the opportunity to represent his new team on the international stage. The German goaltender is the undisputed starter for his home country for the Beijing Games. The Vezina Trophy finalist should join Leon Draisaitl and budding stars Moritz Seider and Tim Stutzle on an otherwise uninspiring German roster. Having Grubauer between the pipes will keep the team in some games, but they shouldn’t be expected to see much success.
Grubauer is coming off a career year that saw him receive his first Vezina Trophy nomination. Last season he ranked second among goaltenders in goals-against average (GAA), eighth in save percentage (SV%), and tied for first with seven shutouts. He became an unrestricted free agent and surprisingly signed with the newest franchise, instantly becoming one of their best and most important players ahead of their inaugural season.
Alexander True, Denmark
While not even necessarily a lock to make Seattle’s opening night roster, True should be locked into a spot for Denmark. The lack of other talents present on the roster ensures he’ll have a chance to play meaningful minutes given his NHL experience. Despite being wildly outmatched by some other countries, Denmark isn’t as deficient up front as it may seem. True joins fellow NHL talents Nikolaj Ehlers, Lars Eller, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Frans Nielsen at forward for a team that will desperately need to score.
The former Seattle Thunderbird was a member of four World Junior Championship (WJC) teams for Denmark, and captained the 2016-17 team. After going undrafted, True has appeared in 203 games for the San Jose Barracuda in the American Hockey League (AHL), recording 59 goals and 128 points. He has five assists in 19 career games played for the San Jose Sharks. True may not contribute much to the Kraken initially, but he should represent them well in Beijing.
Joonas Donskoi, Finland
Donskoi has a strong chance to slot into the bottom-six of a very strong Finnish forward group. He has plenty of experience playing for Finland, having appeared in the WJC as a U18 and twice as a U20 player. He also played extensively in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league, before coming over to the NHL. In 271 career games with Karpat across six seasons, he collected 60 goals and 156 points.
Donskoi will likely either be one of the final cuts made to Finland’s roster, or will be one of the last ones added. He won’t produce a tremendous amount of offense, but he’s a productive and hardworking forward that will help his country at the games. In his six NHL seasons, Donskoi has produced between 30 and 40 points five times, a testament to his consistency and lack of top-notch point production. Although he may not rack up the points, he can still have value for his country.
Calle Jarnkrok, Sweden
Jarnkrok will be a crucial part of Seattle’s offense, but may not have as much value to Team Sweden. They are very deep up front, particularly at center, leaving little room for Jarnkrok to enter the lineup. His versatility could help him make the team, as he can also play wing, but Sweden’s depth may prove too much to allow Jarnkrok to participate in the Olympics. He played in the WJC for Sweden as both a U18 and U20 player, but may not be able to add the Olympic Games to his resume yet.
If he does end up on the roster, Jarnkrok could take one of the wing spots in the bottom six. He won’t produce many points, but his two-way game can offer support to some of the offensive weapons Sweden has. Pairing him with a scoring center like Nicklas Backstrom or William Karlsson could help Sweden keep pucks out of their own net as much as they’re able to put pucks in the other net.
Alexander Wennberg, Sweden
Wennberg, like Jarnkrok, is a casualty of the high-end talent present in Sweden’s forward group. He has a chance to open as Seattle’s top line center, but may get lost among the talented centers Sweden has to choose from. His rebound campaign with the Panthers this past year can improve his stock slightly, but he still may be on the outside looking in. Wennberg appeared in three WJC tournaments with Sweden, and twice was at least a point-per-game producer.
Wennberg adds little on the defensive side of the puck and on special teams, which may lend Jarnkrok to be a better option than he is. Sweden’s forward group is very good offensively, but might find more value in adding a defensive specialist like Jarnkrok as opposed to another offensive threat. He has had success with Sweden in the past, but the tremendous young talent that has come up Sweden’s pipeline in recent years could lead to his omission this time around.
Kraken fans should be excited to see Grubauer compete on the international stage. He should be the best representation Seattle has at the games, while True looks poised to have a role for Denmark as well. Donskoi has a fair shot to earn a spot for Finland, while Jarnkrok and Wennberg are less likely to appear for Sweden. Amidst their inaugural season, having some players competing in the Olympics could generate a whole new wave of dedicated Kraken fans.
Covering the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. MBA Sports & Entertainment Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Formerly Marketing Intern with the American Flag Football League & Operations Intern for the Long Island Nets, G-League Affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.