Based on today’s report about the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, it’s safe to say that we can start to get hyped about the roster that Team Canada is going to send to the Olympics in 2022. What a Canada Day gift!
After opting not to participate at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, the NHL is reportedly planning to send players to the Games in 2022 and 2026. A lot can and will change over the next year and a half, but that won’t stop us from imagining what Team Canada might look like.
There was a lot of carryover from the roster that won in Vancouver in 2010 to the team that won four years later in Sochi. That won’t be the case this time around. Given the fact eight years will have gone by since the last time NHL players participated in the Olympics, we’ll be seeing a very different group representing Team Canada in Beijing.
Here’s my prediction…
Jonathan Huberdeau – Connor McDavid – Nathan MacKinnon
Canada’s top line features the two best players in the NHL right now, McDavid and MacKinnon. Both have incredible speed and it’ll be an absolute treat to watch them burn past defencemen on the larger international sheet of ice. Huberdeau fits nicely alongside McDavid and MacKinnon. He’s the best natural left winger that Canada has to choose from and his playmaking skills would make this line unstoppable in the offensive zone. In my mind, this would be the most loaded line Canada has had at an Olympics since the Paul Kariya, Mario Lemieux, and Steve Yzerman trio at Salt Lake in 2002.
Brad Marchand – Sidney Crosby – Patrice Bergeron
The second line is Canada’s group of veterans. Though McDavid has taken over as Canada’s top centre and biggest threat offensively, Crosby will still be able to drive a very effective line. On his wings will be a pair of Bruins teammates who form two-thirds of arguably the best line in hockey, Bergeron and Marchand. Crosby and Bergeron have chemistry from playing together in 2014, so it makes sense to keep that duo together and bring along Bergeron’s pesky Bruins teammate along for the ride. This line will be effective at both ends of the ice and a pain in the ass to play against.
Steven Stamkos – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
I’m a fan of trying to keep linemates from NHL teams together when putting together a roster for Team Canada, but I had a difficult dilemma here. I originally planned to have Mitch Marner join Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, serving to recreate Tampa Bay’s dominant top line. But after some thought, I had a hard time leaving out John Tavares who has more experience playing high-stakes games for Canada. This line features two elite, veteran shooters in Tavares and Stamkos along with Marner who boasts excellent offensive zone vision and playmaking ability.
Mark Scheifele – Sean Couturier – Mark Stone
Canada always tends to have a line dedicated to playing a checking role at the Olympics. In 2010 it was Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews, and Mike Richards, and, in 2014, it was Patrick Marleau, Toews, and Jeff Carter. By 2022, it’ll be Sean Couturier’s chance to become Canada’s defensive stalwart down the middle. On his wings will be Mark Stone, one of the most underrated two-way wingers in the game, and Mark Scheifele, a high-quality scorer who also isn’t a slouch defensively. While this line will be built primarily for a defensive role, they also have quite a bit of firepower.
Extras: Ryan O’Reilly, Brayden Point
Given his Conn Smythe performance in 2019, it’s impossible to leave O’Reilly off of Canada’s roster. He’s best suited in a checking role on this team, but O’Reilly could really slide anywhere in the lineup to add some grit and energy to a line. And then, of course, there’s Point. He can join Stamkos and Marner on the third line if Tavares struggles on the big ice, but Point has the skill to keep up with any of Canada’s offence-oriented lines.
Thomas Chabot – Alex Pietrangelo
Alex Pietrangelo, who appears poised to win this year’s Norris Trophy, anchors Canada’s top defensive pairing. He was one of the youngest players on Canada’s roster in 2014 and has since emerged as one of the NHL’s best defencemen. Along with Pietrangelo is Thomas Chabot, who’s quickly broken out as a premier offensive defenceman in Ottawa. While Pietrangelo can play the stay-at-home game, Chabot can join the rush and produce offence.
Morgan Rielly – Dougie Hamilton
Hamilton is one of the NHL’s most underrated defenders. He does it all, logging minutes, producing offence, and playing a smart and responsible game in his own end. Much like with the top pairing, this duo would feature a poised defender alongside somebody who’s more oriented to driving offence. That would be Rielly’s role here. Just like Chabot, Rielly can join the rush and get into the mix in the offensive zone.
Drew Doughty – Cale Makar
Doughty’s game has declined in the past couple of years, but part of that likely has to do with the terrible Kings team he plays on. Even if he isn’t the Norris-calibre defenceman he once was, Doughty still brings a wealth of experience to Canada’s lineup as he was a part of the 2010 and 2014 Olympic teams. He serves as an ideal veteran to play alongside the young and dynamic Cale Makar who had quickly emerged as one of the NHL’s best offensive defencemen.
Extras: Josh Morrissey, Shea Weber
There’s a huge list of quality defencemen that Canada could bring to the tournament, but I settled on Morrissey and Weber. Morrissey might not be elite offensively or a physical rock in the defensive zone, but he plays a smart, calm game, much like Marc-Edouard Vlasic did in 2014. And then there’s Weber, who’s showing in Montreal that he’s still an excellent defenceman. Since Canada would be sending a team without much Olympic experience, it’s good to have players like Weber, who won gold in 2010 and 2014, in the mix. He and Doughty could form a tough third pairing for Canada against a bigger, more physical opponent.
Though injuries have taken their toll on Carey Price, it’s still his net to lose. Price’s performance in 2014 was nothing short of legendary as he posted a .972 save percentage in five starts. He might not be the same goalie he was back then, Price deserves a chance to start.
This could end up in a similar situation to 2010 when Roberto Luongo took the net from the veteran Martin Brodeur. I have Jordan Binnington, who led the St. Louis Blues to the Stanley Cup with an incredible breakout performance in 2019, serving as Price’s backup who could ultimately snag the gig.
Marc-Andre Fleury is my third-string goalie in this situation. There’s a good chance he isn’t going to play, but, if you end up in that situation, you want somebody who’s played in a lot of big games.
Goaltending is very enigmatic so it’s pretty tough to predict who should be here a year and a half before the tournament. Maybe by then Carter Hart has established himself as a top-notch NHL starter or maybe Darcy Kuemper gets the nod based on his excellent play in Arizona. Who knows. I do feel pretty confident saying it’ll be Price off the hop, though.