Hockey fans got some hopeful news earlier this week.
As CBA talks continue between the NHL and NHLPA ahead of a final return-to-play agreement to conclude the 2019-20 campaign, one of the big talking points has been Olympic participation.
Word is the approval of the new CBA would mean NHLers being cleared to compete at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games after being held from the 2018 tournament.
While no agreement has been finalized just yet, this news is enough to get us all daydreaming about what that Canadian Olympic team might look like.
It proved to be a fun — though perplexing — puzzle to piece together, and the result is a fast, skilled squad featuring a fleet of fresh faces while a handful of veteran holdovers from the 2010 and 2014 squads help steer the ship.
Here we go:
A mix of veterans and debutants makes this a dynamic group with plenty of potential for shuffling lines. Crosby and McDavid, together at last, form the greatest one-two punch in the game today, while speedy complementary players round out the roster.
LINE 1: Brad Marchand – Sidney Crosby (C) – Patrice Bergeron
These three were a revelation when we saw them together during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and that kind of elite chemistry warrants repeating – even six years later, as they become one of the oldest trios (if not the oldest trio) in the 2022 tournament. Captain Crosby and linemate Bergeron bring two Olympic gold medals apiece, while all three know what it takes to win it all in the NHL.
While the Olympic version of ‘The Perfection Line’ will set the tone for Team Canada, it’s the second line — or rather, we should probably just call it ‘1A’ – that will set the pace…
LINE 2: Mathew Barzal – Connor McDavid (A) – Nathan MacKinnon
If the first line listed is what we expect to see, this one’s what we all want to see. There simply wouldn’t be a faster, more exciting line to watch in the whole tournament – it would be like Team North America all over again, with higher stakes, faster skates, and a fresh face in Barzal who had not yet emerged on the scene in 2016.
LINE 3: Steven Stamkos – Brayden Point – Mitch Marner
Let’s call this one The Atlantic Line, as we bring together stars from two of the most high-powered offences in the division. Stamkos was a young reserve for Vancouver 2010 and was forced to watch the 2014 tournament from afar as he was sidelined with an injury — there’s not a hockey fan on Earth who won’t be happy to see him finally set foot on the big ice. Pairing him here with Point, who has emerged as a top young centre, brings well-established chemistry and allows Stamkos to get comfortable in his office at the left hashmarks, and the idea of seeing Marner set free with these two — think of the one-timer setups! — is too fun a scenario to not run away with.
LINE 4: John Tavares – Ryan O’Reilly – Mark Stone
Shifting Tavares over to the wing here completes what might just be the most versatile trio in this group. The Maple Leafs captain could easily move over to centre for ready-made chemistry with Marner or his old pal Barzal, while reigning Conn Smythe winner O’Reilly finally gets to bring his big-game ability to the Olympic stage. Stone, another long-awaited Olympian, will bring speed, size, and muscle to not only complement these linemates but star in his own right. All three own complete, two-way games that would make this combination tough to play against.
Extras: Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele
You know you’ve got a deep pool of talent when these two talented playmakers are your “extras.” There’s not a line in this group Huberdeau couldn’t flank seamlessly — he’d be particularly fun to watch if paired with McDavid and MacKinnon. The Panthers forward doesn’t always get a lot of attention playing in his small NHL market but could shine on the international stage if given the chance. Scheifele, too, is the kind of versatile centreman that will be ready to run with anyone.
Taylor Hall hasn’t had an easy time following up his remarkable 2017-18 MVP campaign, so he’s on the bubble. Meanwhile, soon-to-be NHLer Alexis Lafreniere’s fate will be decided with the lottery balls later this summer. Should he find himself on a ready-made contender and playing with stars off the hop, there’s a good chance he’s on the bubble to make his Olympic team debut as an NHL sophomore even if just as a reserve.
There’s a changing of the guard happening here, and as strange as it feels — even downright wrong — not to feature veterans like Shea Weber and Brent Burns among those leading Canada’s d-corps, the future of the country’s blue line arrives in 2022. Veterans Pietrangelo and Doughty bring a wealth of experience (and three Olympic gold medals between them) to the group and help steer this fast, mobile unit.
P1: Alex Pietrangelo (A) – Cale Makar
Makar’s rookie season was so strong, he’d be on the squad today let alone two years from now when he’s still just 23. His mobility is unparalleled and his ability to drive play from the blue line makes him a no-brainer for the first power-play unit (hello, McDavid and MacKinnon!). Pairing him with a seasoned veteran and leader like Pietrangelo will only further his development and let him learn from one of the best.
P3: Shea Theodore – Drew Doughty
Theodore has really found his footing in Vegas, and should he build upon his career year in 2019-20 he’ll be a solid force in 2022. Doughty’s importance in this group, meanwhile, cannot be understated. He brings a little sandpaper and a lot of skill, and while his game isn’t what it was a few years ago, the two-time gold medalist and Stanley Cup champ brings a wealth of experience that will prove invaluable for this next group of international team leaders.
Extras: Josh Morrissey, Thomas Chabot
Morrissey should be the first name called upon here, as his strong skating and dependability could complement any of his Olympic teammates right now. With a little more seasoning, Chabot will likely be a national team leader in another four-year cycle. A big body like Colton Parayko could be on the bubble here, too, to replace some of the size lost with the replacement of some veterans.
No. 1: Carey Price
When you have a roster with as many new faces as this one, it’s important to have a solid veteran backing them up. Price hasn’t been the same Price we’ve been used to seeing, but he’s still the guy so many NHLers point to as the best in the game and no doubt has some of his best hockey still ahead.
No. 2: Jordan Binnington
We know this Cup-winning netminder can step into a high-stakes situation and hold down the crease. Does he look nervous? (No.)
No. 3: Carter Hart
Even if he doesn’t play, the experience of soaking up the highest level of competition would be truly invaluable for the young Flyer, which is why he gets the nod over a more established netminder like Braden Holtby, who has struggled at times with consistency and might therefore be the odd man out.