The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan may be over, but the 2020 Paralympics are currently in full swing and another Olympic Games are just a few months away.
The 2022 Winter Olympics are set to take place in February in Beijing, China and NHL players are expected to participate in the men’s ice hockey event for the first time since 2014.
The NHL and NHLPA agreed to allow players to go back to the Olympics as part of negotiations ahead of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs but the NHL’s refusal to cover COVID-19 insurance put those plans in jeopardy. On Friday, however, the NHL and NHLPA announced that they have reached an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation to participate in the Olympics, with the IIHF providing a $5 million fund to cover any lost salary because of COVID.
There’s still an out if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens but, for now, NHL players are going to the Olympics in February.
Seven members of the Vancouver Canucks represented their respective countries in 2014. Roberto Luongo and Dan Hamhuis won gold for Team Canada, defeating Daniel Sedin and Alex Edler, who settled for silver for Sweden, with an injury sidelining Henrik Sedin.
Ryan Kesler fell just short of a medal with Team USA, Yannick Weber represented Switzerland, and Ronalds Kenins suited up for Latvia.
The current Canucks might be able to match that number at the 2022 Olympics.
Elias Pettersson is a lock for Team Sweden. He was a baffling omission from Sweden’s 2018 Olympic team despite leading the SHL in scoring as a rookie. Sweden was subsequently knocked out in the quarterfinals, not even making it to the medal round. They won’t make that mistake again and Pettersson will be part of a dangerous group of Swedish forwards.
Pettersson could be joined by new teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson, whose play has fallen off in recent years but has represented Sweden at one previous Olympics and six World Championships. Even Nils Höglander has an outside shot if he can take a step forward in his sophomore season in the NHL.
Team USA will likely have the most Canucks representation. Brock Boeser is a safe bet and Quinn Hughes, despite some tough competition on the blue line, should be as well. J.T. Miller will be in the mix, either as a scoring winger or a bottom-six centre, and Thatcher Demko might also make the team, albeit as a likely third-string goaltender behind Connor Hellebuyck and John Gibson.
Then there’s the wild card: Conor Garland. The winger just established himself as a top-six winger this past season, then went to the World Championships and led Team USA in scoring with 13 points in 10 games, good for second in the tournament. He’s a long shot, but a strong start to the season could put him in the conversation.
Slovakia, who just qualified for the Olympics this week, will have one Canuck. Jaroslav Halak is the only active Slovakian goaltender in the NHL and it’s safe to say he’ll be Slovakia’s starter, even at the age of 36.
At the other end of his career is prospect goaltender Arturs Silovs. He was on Latvia’s roster for the Olympic qualifiers and is likely to be the team’s second or third-string goaltender behind Elvis Merzlikins.
There are a couple of other possibilities. Perhaps Vasily Podkolzin, who has been groomed as a top player on Russia’s international squads for years, gets the call in a fourth-line role. Maybe Finland’s startling lack of depth on defence means Olli Juolevi gets a shot if he finds his groove with the Canucks.
Finally, there’s Team Canada, and just one Canuck could potentially don the red maple leaf: captain Bo Horvat. Craig Button put Horvat on his projected roster for the Olympics, sliding him to the left wing on the fourth line.
Horvat faces stiff competition, however, as Canada has centre depth to spare and Horvat has never really played on the wing. His lack of experience on the penalty kill will also hurt his chances of earning a bottom-six role.
More likely than not, Canada won’t have any Canuck content in Beijing.
Even without Canadian representation, the Canucks could have anywhere from 6-9 players at the Olympics representing their countries.