As we inch closer to the NHL and NHLPA agreeing on a plan to finish out the 2019-20 season, word has leaked out that an amendment to the CBA will pave the way for NHL players to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
The league blocked players from playing in the 2018 games citing an unwillingness to put the NHL season on halt for upwards of two months. Russia’s KHL took 33 days off for an Olympic break in 2018, Sweden’s SHL took 14, and leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic took nearly three weeks each. The last three times NHL players have gone to the Olympics the league took a two-week break.
So, with the prospect of being without the Golden Knights for two weeks in the middle of the 2021-22 season, we’ll have to hope a few Golden Knights make Olympic rosters. Here’s a look at which ones have the best chance.
Mark Stone – Canada
It’s hard to believe a roster with the option to select Mark Stone would be without him, but it is actually possible. He should be a lock as the best defensive winger in the NHL and nearly a point per game producer with size and an incredible stick, but the list of Canadian forwards is vast and depending on the type of team they are going for, there’s a legitimate argument to leave him off.
In the end, not selecting Stone would be a mistake Team Canada will probably not make.
William Karlsson – Sweden
Sweden is surprisingly a bit weak when it comes to the center position. By 2022, there’s going to be an argument to be made for Karlsson as the best Swedish center available. Nicklas Backstrom will be 34-years-old, so it’ll be between Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad. Karlsson will probably find himself down the lineup a bit due to his defensive prowess, but with the wingers Team Sweden boasts, every line is going to be potent.
Assuming health, Karlsson will be headed to Beijing.
Shea Theodore – Canada
If the tournament were tomorrow, Theodore may not crack the lineup for Team Canada, but in two years, he should be pretty close to a no-brainer. The group of defensemen for Canada isn’t nearly as deep as the forwards as Alex Pietrangelo is the only player on the list that appears to be a true lock. Names like Drew Doughty, Cale Makar, Thomas Chabot, Aaron Ekblad, and Josh Morrissey are those who Theodore will be competing with to make the squad.
If Theodore’s career keeps heading in the direction it has since he got to Vegas, he’ll not only be a lock for the 2022 team, but might be their best defenseman.
Robin Lehner – Sweden
While I’m not convinced Lehner will be a member of the Golden Knights come 2022, I am convinced he’ll be one of the goalies selected to represent Sweden in Beijing. Jacob Markstrom had a magical season this year which has him on the path to go along with Swedish legend Henrik Lundqvist, but Lehner’s past two seasons have him turning into a consistent force Team Sweden will be looking for.
Lehner will not only be on the roster, but he’ll probably be the starter when the games get underway in February 2022.
Marc-Andre Fleury – Canada
Carey Price, Carter Hart, Brayden Holtby, Jordan Binnington, and Matt Murray are some of the other options. So, Fleury’s prospects will depend heavily on form at the time. Not only his own form but that of his competition. He’ll be 37-years-old when the tournament is being played.
There’s a real case to be made to project him to be on the roster, but if I were to make a guess today, I’d say he ends up as the 3rd goalie (who never plays) or off the roster completely.
Alex Tuch – USA
There are a lot of talented wingers Tuch will have to overcome in the next two years to earn a spot in Beijing, but it’s not unthinkable that he can do it. At the moment, he’s not even in the conversation after his tough season this year, but with the speed and size he brings, and the fact that he’s right-handed, if he can make the strides many expect from him in 2020 and 2021, there’s a chance his name enters the picture. Guys like Kyle Connor, Clayton Keller, Jack Hughes, Cam Atkinson, and Chris Kreider are who he’ll have to jump to get there.
It’s possible, but 2026 seems like a more reasonable timeline for Tuch to don the red, white, and blue.
Max Pacioretty – USA
Basically the opposite of Tuch, Pacioretty has to continue playing exactly like he did this year to be in consideration. If he puts up two more seasons like he did in 2019-20, there’s going to be a strong case to put him on the Team USA roster. At that time, he’ll be 33, so he’ll have to be proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that age hasn’t begun to slow him down at all.
If he’s staring at a third straight 30 goal season at that time, he’s certainly going to be in the mix.
Nate Schmidt – USA
If Team USA had to be chosen at any time during or following the 2017-18 season, Schmidt would have had a real chance to make the roster. But, his suspension at the beginning of 2018-19 and then lackluster play for a majority of this past season has him pretty far out of the picture. Under DeBoer, Schmidt was much better this season, which gives hope that he can regain his 2017-18 form. If he does that, it’s actually possible he could be selected over players like Ryan Suter, Torrey Krug, Jaccob Slavin, or Jacob Trouba.
Unlikely, but possible.