Over the weekend, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid was one of three players named to Team Canada’s 2022 Olympic hockey team by general manager Doug Armstrong. McDavid joins Sidney Crosby and Alex Pietrangelo as the first three players to get the invitation.
This will be McDavid’s first time competing at the Olympics since NHL players haven’t participated since 2014. However, the new agreement that was reached between the NHL, the NHPA, the IOC, and the IIHF will allow NHLers to compete in the Olympics in 2022 and 2026.
McDavid Wins at the World Juniors
2015 was the year for McDavid and Team Canada, and he was the captain. It was his second attempt at Gold at the World Juniors since he made the team as an underaged player in 2014. So it was more of his team to control, especially when the older players on each team are much more productive.
We look to the end of this tournament first, and for those of you who don’t know or remember, this team won to earn Canada its 16th gold medal at the tournament. It was also the first Gold that Team Canada has won at the World Juniors since 2009, breaking that slump. Canada took a commanding lead in the Gold medal game to go on top 5-1 before Russia stormed back to make the game 5-4. Canada shut the door for the rest of the game and finished off the Russians for the win.
McDavid was a huge part of Team Canada’s success in 2015. He scored a goal in the Gold medal game and tied for the lead in tournament scoring with 11 points in seven games, including three goals – tied with teammates Sam Reinhart (five goals, six assists) and Nic Petan (four goals, seven assists). Though McDavid didn’t earn top forward of the tournament or tournament MVP, he was named to the Media All-Star team, along with Reinhart, Max Domi, and Josh Morrisey.
Experience in International Play
McDavid has worn a Team Canada jersey on five different occasions. Aside from winning Gold at the WJC in 2015, he played in the U-18 World Championship in 2013 and lit up the competition. Canada won Gold while McDavid scored eight goals and 14 points in seven games. He then recorded four points at the WJC in 2014 when the team finished fourth. The 2015 tournament was his last appearance at the World Juniors, as he was drafted by the Oilers first overall later that year.
Since then, McDavid has competed at the World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey. The Oilers didn’t make the playoffs in 2016 and 2018, so he decided to take his talent to the international stage. Team Canada won Gold at the World Championships in 2016, when the forward scored nine points in 10 games. Fortune didn’t go their way in 2018 when Canada finished fourth despite a stellar performance from McDavid, who had 17 points in 10 games.
McDavid was part of Team North America when the World Cup of Hockey returned after a 12-year hiatus. Team North America was made up of players 23 years of age and younger. It was a no-brainer to add him to the Team Canada roster at the 2022 Olympics.
Who Will McDavid Play With
The 2021 Hart Trophy winner will inevitably play on the first line, but who will land the spots beside McDavid? There’s no shortage of elite talent in Canada. He will gain knowledge and experience by playing with a number of very good leaders. There are possibilities of massive positive impacts on McDavid from teammates on Team Canada.
Crosby, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron will likely play together. Bergeron has played on Crosby’s wing in the past, at the 2014 Olympics. This time Marchand should join them on the left as he has incredible chemistry with Bergeron as well as training with Crosby in the offseasons. The only other players I don’t envision getting a shot to play with McDavid are centre options. Sean Couturier and Brayden Point may be the only real answers to the question as to who will fill the bottom-6 centre positions.
Now onto the players that should get a shot on the top line with McDavid. As we’ve seen in the past, someone doesn’t have to be the most talented winger to play alongside a superstar, he just has to have chemistry and be good enough. We saw that example with Chris Kunitz. He became an efficient player by doing everything Crosby needed from a linemate, and it took him all the way to the Stanley Cup and an Olympic Gold medal.
With the amount of high-level talent that will be competing for spots on a Team Canada which will feature NHL players finally returning to the Olympics, it will be very tough for complimentary players to find their place here.
Let’s discuss the four options that are the most likely and are best suited to line up beside McDavid. The first and most likely is Nathan MacKinnon. His speed and explosiveness match McDavid’s, and they have played on the same team before, Team North America in 2016. Regarded as a top-three player in the world, it would only make sense to pair these two together and make the first line even more lethal.
The final spot should come down to these three players: Mitch Marner, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mathew Barzal. To further add to the speed of the first line, Marner or Barzal would have first looks there. Marner has shown he can put up points and play with other elite players. Barzal is on a very defensive team in the New York Islanders, so his freedom to be as creative of a player as we know he can be has been suppressed. With a shot on Team Canada, we may be able to see him unleashed, and that could be on the first line with McDavid and MacKinnon.
However the lines shape up, McDavid was the right choice in receiving a call to Team Canada, and that may mean he has a letter on his jersey. Though he will be one of the younger players on the team, he will have to be a leader nonetheless. Keep an eye out for the next group of players invited to Team Canada and how the lines shape up as an important Olympics is around the corner.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. As a fantasy hockey veteran, he will be informing you on the best weekly options for your matchups to begin the week and mid-way. He will also keep you in the loop for weekly news and updates on the Oilers & Flyers.