We’re a year away from the 2022 Winter Olympics and that means it’s time to project the Olympic rosters. I might as well get in on the action here with a look at the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the renegotiated CBA, the NHL promised to let players go to the Olympics after stonewalling players and locking them out for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In 2014, the Lightning had a number of players selected to go to the Olympics (though Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula ultimately did not play because of injuries) and it looks like the current Lightning squad could have a wide range of players representing their countries as well.
Playing for your country, especially in the Olympics, is one of the pinnacles of any athlete’s career. For Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy, it will also take on the added distinction of potentially joining the Triple Gold club for winning the Stanley Cup, World Championship Gold, and Olympic Gold. Let’s go country by country through the current roster and see who are locks, hopefuls, and no-hopes.
The competition for roster spots on Team Canada is always fierce. Having one of the biggest and most talented player bases to draw from, it’s difficult to nail down who actually has a chance. Because of the glut of highly talented centers that Canada has available, it becomes even harder to make the team as a pure winger, because centers are often moved to the wing for Canada in the Olympics.
Locks: Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point
Hopefuls: Anthony Cirelli
No Hopes: Cal Foote, Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde, Mathieu Joseph, Alex Killorn, Curtis McElhinney, Luke Schenn, Gemel Smith, Mitchell Stephens
I personally think Steven Stamkos is a Lock. Barring injury, he’s still one of the best goal scorers that Team Canada has available to them. He was an alternate for the 2010 Olympics, missed 2014 because of injury, and 2018 because of the lockout. Leaving him off the roster would be a disservice to one of the best goal scorers the NHL has seen in the last 30+ years. But some pundits have been leaving Stamkos off of their lists.
Point is also a Lock for me as he has worked his way into being one of the best centers in the NHL and to leave Point off the roster would mean taking someone that was objectively worse.
I list Cirelli as a Possible, but he is an EXTREME long shot. He’d have to take some major strides forward offensively this year and early next season to make it over some of the other options out there. However, if Team Canada wants to take another very strong two-way center in the vein of Patrice Bergeron and Ryan O’Reilly, Cirelli would have to be in the conversation. If he makes the team, he would be on the fringe of the roster though.
Team United States
Like Canada, the United States has a deep pool of players to pull from. They’re not as deep as Canada though and a player doesn’t have to be quite as good to be able to make it onto the roster.
Locks: Ryan McDonagh
Hopefuls: Tyler Johnson, Blake Coleman
No Hopes: Pat Maroon
McDonagh played on the 2014 Olympics team for the United States, he definitely would have been on the 2018 roster, and there’s no reason to think he’d not be there once again. The case for Tyler Johnson and Blake Coleman (who are both unlikely to be Lightning players this time next year) is pretty similar.
They’re both good players, they can both play center and wing, but the reality is that they are long shots and would likely need some injuries up front for them to be considered. They both have pretty good points production, but it’s not quite enough to put them high on the list of forwards to be considered. I think Coleman would have the edge over Johnson though because he is better defensively.
Russia is another super power hockey nation. They have a deep pool of players to pull from, not only from the NHL, but also from the KHL. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Pavel Datsyuk take one last shot at the Olympics even as he’s approaching the end of his career in Russia.
Locks: Nikita Kucherov, Mikhail Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy+
No Hopes: Alex Volkov
Kucherov has become one of the best players in all of hockey and would make the roster for any Olympic team. It’s easy to imagine a top line of Alex Ovechkin on the other side from Kucherov with Evgeni Malkin centering them. Sergachev likewise has been working his way up the ladder of Russia’s defensemen. The Russians are much deeper at forward than on the blue line, but Sergachev should end up on their second pair behind Ivan Provorov.
Vasilevskiy likewise is one of the three best Russian goaltenders in the world along with Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky. He was the third goaltender for Russia in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and didn’t play a single minute. This time around, he’ll be in prime position to take the starting spot for Team Russia.
Team Czech Republic
The Czechs are one of the smaller hockey playing nations and don’t have a ton of players in the NHL with only 23 skaters having appeared in an NHL game this season and 30 last season. They’ll be pulling a combination of players from the NHL, and from European leagues.
Locks: Ondrej Palat
Hopefuls: Jan Rutta
No Hopes: None
Palat was the sixth leading point scorer among Czech players in the NHL last season. He’s a solid two-way winger and would likely slot in on their second or third line or move over to right wing. Jan Rutta is one of only eight Czech defensemen to skate in the NHL over the past two seasons. I put him as a Possible selection because I think he has a very good chance of making the roster, but there is the possibility that the team could decide to go with other defensemen that are currently playing in Europe.
Sweden is another strong contender and they have a wide range of players to choose from in the NHL, but you also can’t discount the possibility of them taking a few players from the SHL or another European league to fill out the roster.
Locks: Victor Hedman+
No Hopes: Andreas Borgman
Hedman was a somewhat controversial snub for the 2014 Olympics by Team Sweden. He arguably should have been there as he was having a breakout season offensively for the Lightning. He was passed over though and had to sit at home and watch Team Sweden win a Silver Medal without him.
Team Slovakia - Not Yet Qualified
Slovakia just missed out on an automatic qualification to the 2022 Olympics. The top eight countries by ranking and the host country, China, received automatic qualification. Slovakia comes in ninth in the world rankings. Slovakia was scheduled to participate in a qualification round in August 2020, but that was postponed due to COVID. Instead, they’ll be playing the round in August 2021 against Belarus, Austria, and Poland. Their qualification isn’t guaranteed, but they have a good chance of making it into the tournament.
Locks: Erik Cernak
No Hopes: None
Cernak is one of only 11 Slovakian players to play in the NHL the past two seasons and one of six defensemen. He should have no problems of breaking in to the line up, especially as a right handed shot.
A lot of things can change in the next year (just think back to how things have changed since last year), but Lightning fans should be excited for the return of NHL players to the Olympics. When (or if) the Winter Olympics take place in 2022, the Tampa Bay Lightning should be well represented and at least one of their players should be returning with a gold medal.