The 2022 Beijing Olympics will mark the return of NHL players to this major international event after a year’s absence in 2018. To highlight their participation and set the table for this long-awaited event, NHL. com will publish between now and the opening ceremony of the Games a multitude of texts related to the Olympic hockey tournament. Today, a glimpse of what the formation of Canada could look like.
To put this roster together, five NHL.com staff members submitted their picks, and we tried to pick the names that had consensus. As the options are very numerous for the Canadian team, we offer you a first version of their formation, and we will redo this exercise just before the official announcement at the beginning of January.
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Assembling the Canadian squad for an international tournament is like choosing a new series to watch on Netflix: the options are all more interesting than the other, and it is exceedingly difficult to decide.
The Team Canada management team, led by general manager Doug Armstrong, can’t really be wrong, the number of quality candidates is impressive. It now remains to find the best possible combinations, as well as to determine which role will be assigned to each of the players selected.
Among the obvious facts, however, we can say that Canada’s attack will be extremely intimidating, but some question marks remain at the blue line and in front of the net.
Patrice Bergeron -Sidney Crosby*- Brad Merchant
Jonathan Huberdeau -Connor McDavid*- Nathan MacKinnon
Steven Stamkos – Brayden Point – Mitchell Marner
Sean Couturier – Ryan O’Reilly – Mark Stone
While many goalkeepers will have nightmares just looking at this list of forwards, the names that have been dropped from this 12-man lineup are equally impressive. Players like Mark Scheifele, who ranks fifth among Canadian-born NHL scorers since the start of the 2019-20 season, Mathew Barzal and David Perron, who is off to a fantastic start to the season with the St. Louis Blues, received votes but couldn’t crack one of Canada’s four lines. Sign of Canada’s incredible depth in the center, the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs John Tavares received no votes.
Canadian fans will finally have the chance to see McDavid in a maple leaf uniform in a senior international tournament, and the possibility of seeing him play on the same line as MacKinnon is truly intriguing, especially if we add the Quebecer Huberdeau to their sides. The combination of Crosby, Bergeron and Marchand already has a certain chemistry, which was established when the three players skated on the same line at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016.
Video: EUR@CAN #1: Bergeron widens the gap
We then find a duo who still knows each other quite well in Point and Stamkos, two teammates at the Tampa Bay Lightning. They should get along well with Marner, who is used to handing the puck to top players in Toronto.
What about Canada’s defensive line? O’Reilly and Couturier have both won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward for the past three seasons, and Stone has been a nominee for the honor twice in the same span, has always been the winger with the most votes. These three players have also been brought together by several of our panelists and they can be sent on more defensive missions, while being perfectly capable of filling the opposing net.
Drew Doughty – Hold Makar
Shea Theodore – Alex Pietrangelo*
Morgan Rielly – Aaron Ekblad
Canada has an impressive number of top defensemen, but the vast majority of them are right-handed.
At the Sochi Games in 2014, the Canadian team ensured that the balance was respected between right-handers and left-handers, which explains why players like Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Dan Hamhuis were selected.
Pietrangelo, who was among the first three players named by Canada on October 3, Makar, Ekblad and Doughty were all unanimous picks among our five panellists. One of these four backs will therefore have to play on the left side. With his experience and mobility, Doughty appears to be the most logical candidate to make this side switch.
Video: VGK@LAK: Doughty adds ahead in AN
Excellent right-handed candidates received votes, but were left out of the lineup. One thinks here of Kris Letang or of Dougie Hamilton. The competition for the available positions on the left side will be very close, as Theodore and Rielly obtained the favor of our panelists in the context of this exercise.
We will have to see if rears like Darnell Nurse, Thomas Chabot Where Jakob Chychrun are going to have a good enough season to cloud the issue, or if we are going to turn to defenders with a different profile, like Devon Toews of the Colorado Avalanche or even Ryan Graves of the New Jersey Devils, two players who once had a certain Cale Makar as a partner.
The situation in net was made even more cloudy when Price announced that he would be participating in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program before the start of the season. If Price returns to action before January, healthy and as dazzling as he was in the last Stanley Cup Playoffs, the number one goaltender position will undoubtedly go to the Montreal Canadiens, as was the case in Sochi in 2014.
If Price is unable to travel to Beijing, it will be a very close contest for the starting goalkeeper position. Darcy Kuemper, of the Avalanche, and Marc-André Fleury, of the Chicago Blackhawks, both got two votes from our panellists, but are having a rough start to the season. Jordan Binnington, Blues, and Carter Hart, of the Philadelphia Flyers, received one vote each.
*Player already selected to be part of the team.