The NHL is heading back to the Olympic Games, after it was announced earlier this month that the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement to send NHL players to the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
That means the best hockey players in the world will be coming together to represent their home countries and compete for a gold medal. It will be the first time since 2014 that NHL players have competed on the international Olympic stage.
With that, let’s take a look at some of those players that could be participating in the Beijing Olympics.
What countries are participating in ice hockey in Beijing?
There will be 12 countries competing in men’s ice hockey for the gold medal in Beijing. The 12 will be split into three groups of four to kick off the preliminary round.
Group A will consist of the United States, Canada, Germany and China, who automatically got a bid as the host country. Group B will have the Russian Olympic Committee, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Denmark. Group C will be Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Latvia.
Why didn’t the NHL send its players to the 2018 Olympics?
For the first time in five Winter Olympic Games, the NHL did not send its players to the Olympics in 2018.
Previously, the IOC covered travel, insurance, accommodations and other costs for NHL players. However, the IOC decided against it for 2018. When that was announced, the NHL decided to pull its players from going to the Olympics, also citing injury concerns that would affect the rest of the NHL season.
As a result, countries were forced to look elsewhere to fill out their rosters. Players were pulled from the AHL, European professional leagues and the NCAA level to participate in the Olympics.
Part of the reason for the NHL’s return in 2022 is because the IOC will cover those costs that they did not in 2018.
What players from the Flyers could be playing in Beijing?
The Philadelphia Flyers may not have a ton of representation in February at the Beijing Olympics. There are only two real locks, with a few players on the bubble.
One guarantee will be Ivan Provorov. Not only should he find himself on the Russian Olympic Committee's Olympic squad, but he will see top-pair minutes. Provorov will be leaned on heavily, along with Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev, to lead a Russian defensive group that lacks depth.
The other will be new Flyer Rasmus Ristolainen. The towering defender, who was acquired by the Flyers from the Buffalo Sabres, should see a top-four role on Finland’s team. Ristolainen was a part of Finland's disappointing showing at the World Cup of Hockey, where the country went 0-3 and finished in last.
On to the bubble players. If I had to guess, Sean Couturier finds himself on Canada’s squad come February. He likely would play on the fourth line, which just goes to show you how deep Canada’s roster will be. The 2020 Selke winner was a part of the Team North American squad at the World Cup of Hockey, the group of sub-23-year-olds from Canada and the U.S., so this would be Couturier’s first Olympic Games.
Claude Giroux and Carter Hart both could be one of the last cuts for Team Canada. The NHL’s decision to not send players in 2018 might have screwed Giroux out of the chance to play at the Olympics. He had his best year in 2017-18 and surely would have been on the Canadian team. His play has regressed since then, and he might find himself off the roster.
Hart, who signed an extension with Philadelphia this summer, will be in a battle for the third goalie spot. Montreal’s Carey Price and Chicago’s Marc-Andre Fleury should be locks for the first two, but Hart will need to prove last year was a fluke if he wants to get the nod. Even then, Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper, St. Louis’ Jordan Binnnington and New Jersey’s MacKenzie Blackwood will also be eyeing the same goal.
Looking at the Americans, Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk will likely be considered, but most likely won’t make the team. Van Riemsdyk was on the team in 2014 and had an excellent Olympics, securing seven points in seven games..
Oskar Lindblom has a long shot at making Team Sweden. There is just too much talent ahead of him at forward.