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WWYDW(TE): Team Canada at the 2022 Olympics

While it isn’t yet a guarantee, it looks as though NHL players will return to the Olympics in Beijing in 2022.

After sitting out of the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018, the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed on between the NHL and the Players’ Association featured intent to allow players to participate in the Games in 2022 and 2026.

That said, there still exist a few obstacles. The COVID-19 pandemic will be an issue but we can’t predict where the world will be at come February. Another major hurdle is who pays for player insurance. It appears that problem will be solved as the IIHF is playing for insurance for Olympic qualifiers this month.

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Anyways, let’s assume that NHL players are going to be in Beijing come February, and let’s start thinking about what the teams are going to look like. That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday THURSDAY EDITION question. If you were putting together Team Canada for 2022, who would make the squad? Also, which other Oilers do you expect to play for their respective countries?

Forwards

One key reason why we should all really want NHL players at the 2022 Olympics is that it’s likely our last chance to see Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, two of the best players of this generation, play together on the world’s biggest stage. Crosby is now 34 years old and it’s difficult to say if he’ll still be playing come 2026.

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We’ll start with McDavid and Crosby as our top two centres and find some wingers for them. Crosby has had chemistry playing alongside Patrice Bergeron dating all the way back to when they played together at the World Juniors in 2005. If Bergeron is going to be alongside Crosby’s right, it would be logical to bring another member from that wildly successful Boston line, Brad Marchand.

Who plays with McDavid? Canada has a dearth of centres available to them and, in my mind, Nathan MacKinnon is too good to be playing on the third line. MacKinnon has some of the best wheels in the game and him playing alongside McDavid would be absolute chaos for opposing defenders. On the left, a playmaking winger who can work magic in the offensive zone would be an ideal fit. Jonathan Huberdeau makes sense for this spot.

Also, knowing that chemistry plays a factor in these decisions, both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman, who are the prime options to be playing on McDavid’s left in Edmonton in 2021-22, should be considered.

The bottom six will likely feature one more skilled line and then a fourth line oriented towards playing a shutdown role.

The shutdown line could be pivoted by either 2019-20 Selke Trophy winner Sean Couturier or 2019 Conn Smythe winner Ryan O’Reilly. Mark Stone is an obvious choice to play on the right-wing of this line as he’s one of the league’s top two-way wingers. I think whichever of O’Reilly or Couturier isn’t playing centre would be the left-winger here, but a skilled player like Mark Scheifele could fit, too. A two-way energy winger like Hyman could also make sense.

What about that other line? We know Team Canada will lean towards having some veterans with Olympic experience on the roster, so I would guess that John Tavares will be in the mix, assuming he’s all good after suffering that brutal injury in Game 1 of the playoffs against Montreal. Tavares’ teammate in Toronto, Mitch Marner would make sense on his right, leaving the left spot open for another skilled player, such as Mat Barzal or Brayden Point.

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Defence and Goaltending

The team’s defence is a much different situation. There’s going to be quite the turnover on the blueline from the 2014 team that won gold in Sochi to the group that’ll head to Beijing.

I can see two veterans from the 2014 team’s blueline making their way onto the 2022 team, Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo, with the latter being a more obvious bet than the former. At this point, there are better defenders available who can play larger roles, but it would be ideal for Canada to have a couple of guys who have experience playing on this stage.

If Pietrangelo is on the team, his partner on the Golden Knights, Shea Theodore would be the sensible name to have playing beside him. Theodore finished sixth in Norris Trophy voting in 2021 and would make Team Canada on his own merit, but this is a good place to start.

Cale Makar, who finished second in Norris voting, is another obvious choice to be on the team. Given his offensive style, it would be ideal to play Makar next to somebody who can play a responsible game in their own end. Darnell Nurse might do well in this role, but Adam Pelech, who has evolved into an elite shutdown guy, would be a sensible choice as well.

A couple of other names who make sense to fit in are Dougie Hamilton, the top defender on this summer’s free-agent market, and Thomas Chabot, an excellent puck-moving and minute-eating defender on the Ottawa Senators. If Nurse and Makar are a pair, Chabot and Hamilton could play together.

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Finally, we have goaltenders.

Marc-Andre Fleury just won the Vezina Trophy and could be Team Canada’s starter if he keeps playing well. Carey Price, who was Canada’s ace in 2014, might be the top option given his experience at the Olympics. We saw Canada start with Martin Brodeur in 2010 and lose his gig to Roberto Luongo, so Price might get a chance to kick things off.

Other names in the mix to be the third-string are Jordan Binnington, Darcy Kuemper, Carter Hart, and Mike Smith. It isn’t a great list of names, so let’s hope either Fleury or Price locks down the job.

What say you, Nation? Who do you think will be on Team Canada come February? How many Oilers might we see at the tournament? 


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