There was great news last week for fans of international hockey, as the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF announced an agreement that will once again allow NHL players to participate in the Olympics.
The NHL was absent from the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, last participating in Sochi back in 2014. Now as the Olympic eyes turn to Beijing in 2022, NHLers will return to Olympic ice once again.
For the Canes, there could be a lot of familiar faces on the ice for fans, as Carolina is loaded with a roster that could send as many as 10 or more players to the games.
Back in 2014, the Canes had four players participate, with none of those still on the Carolina squad.
In 2014, the #Canes had four Olympians (long reads linked for old times' sake).— Michael Smith (@MichaelSmithNC) September 3, 2021
Faulk : https://t.co/e8wcjYRw8H
Ruutu : https://t.co/bVnWSDWH9t
Sekera : https://t.co/rrZSp0ztoa
Semin : https://t.co/Y91eyrLuQI
In 2022, they could easily have 7-10.
But things are obviously a lot different for the current iteration of the Canes, as one of the most talented rosters in the NHL will certainly send quite a few players to the biggest stage in international sports.
There are 12 teams that will make up the men’s ice hockey field at the Olympics: Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Russia*, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
*Like it did in Tokyo 2020 this year, Russia will participate in the 2022 Olympics as the Russian Olympic Committee
The Hurricanes currently have rostered players from nine of those 12 countries, with Latvia, Slovakia and host China being the only exceptions. Of those nine countries, the Canes should see a player play for at least six.
Here’s a look at who could represent the Hurricanes at the Olympics, sorted alphabetically by country:
Frankly, the Canes probably won’t have a Canadian playing for the Olympic team. The Canes’ best players aren’t from Canada, and there are so many talented Canadian players across the league that it is hard to imagine the Hurricanes will get a player on this team.
Hockey analytics writer JFresh Hockey did a Twitter poll for the five major teams (Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, USA), and no Canes player even received a vote for the Canadian team.
Here's the 2022 Team Canada Men's Olympic Roster as voted by you.— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 3, 2021
Locks: Martin Necas
There are currently just 34 NHL players from the Czech Republic, so most of them will make the Czech team if they want to play.
Even if the Czech Republic was well represented in the league, it’d be a no-brainer for Martin Necas to play for his country at the Olympics anyway.
Necas is a budding star, one who scored 41 points in 53 games this past year. He’s also played for his country plenty, appearing in the World Junior Championships four times and scoring five points in seven games as a 19-year old in the 2018 World Championships.
Barring injury or a personal decision not to play, Necas should be in Beijing come February.
Locks: Frederik Andersen
New Canes goalie Frederik Andersen is the only Danish goalie in the history of the NHL, so his inclusion on Denmark’s first Olympic team ever will be obvious.
Andersen is by far the most successful goalie in the country’s history, and he’s played for a number of World Junior teams in the past. He also played for Denmark in the 2018 World Championships.
Locks: Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen
Possible: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Antti Raanta
The Canes have had a lot of success in recent years with players from Finland, and it will be the most heavily Canes-represented country at the 2022 games.
The first two are obvious selections, as Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are elite NHL players among the very best from Finland. Their familiarity with each other will also certainly be a big boost for the Finnish team, as it’s not too often that guys who have spent as much time as linemates as Aho and Teravainen can do the same for a national team.
Both have played plenty for Finland in World Juniors, World Championships and the World Cup of Hockey.
The other Finnish forward from the Canes that could play in the Olympics is the newest member of the Hurricanes, as the recently offer-sheeted Jesperi Kotkaniemi also resides from Finland.
Kotkaniemi is a very talented player, one who may be on the fringe of the Finland national team but should likely still make the roster. Kotkaniemi has been a World Juniors player for Finland in the past, and he was included on the roster in the JFresh fan vote mentioned earlier.
Here's the 2022 Team Finland Olympic roster as voted by you!— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 4, 2021
The fourth and final Finn from the Canes that could potentially make the Olympic roster is newly acquired goalie Antti Raanta, though his inclusion is much less likely. With Juuse Saros, Tuukka Rask and Joonas Korpisalo all from Finland, it would likely take one of them being injured or choosing to sit out for Raanta to make the team.
Possible: Dominik Bokk
Canes prospect Dominik Bokk may not play a ton for Carolina this upcoming season, but he should play for the German national team in the Olympics.
Germany currently has just nine players in the NHL, so Bokk being right on the cusp does make him among the country’s better options. He’s played a ton for Germany in World Juniors and other competitions, with over 70 points for the country at all levels and even a few games with the senior team.
Bokk isn’t a lock to play in the same way that Aho and Teravainen are for Finland, but he’s certainly a likely choice to be included on the German roster.
Russian Olympic Committee
Locks: Andrei Svechnikov
Russians love their hockey and there are a ton of talented Russian players both in the NHL and abroad, but it’s a pretty safe bet to assume Svechnikov will be on the ROC team for the 2022 Olympics.
He’s one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in the NHL, and he’s already proven he can be a dangerous goal scorer on the top level. Barring personal decision or injury, Svechnikov will be on the Russian team, even though he hasn’t actually played a ton for the country in the past. It’s hard to play for the junior teams a lot when you’re already in the NHL, after all.
Here's the 2022 Team Russia Olympic roster as voted by you!— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 4, 2021
Possible: Jesper Fast
This one is a bit of a long shot, as Jesper Fast is probably a little bit further down Sweden’s list of forwards than a lot of other players on this list.
He’s a good NHL player, but there are a lot of good NHL players from Sweden. Fast’s chances of making the Olympics are slim to none, but there’s always a chance.
Here are the percentage results for every forward on the Olympic fan ballot: pic.twitter.com/2zJyWoVabX— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 3, 2021
Locks: Nino Niederreiter
There are currently 12 active NHL players from Switzerland, and Niederreiter trails only Roman Josi in career points among that group.
Niederreiter has also spent a ton of time playing for Switzerland in the past, logging over 51 games played for the country over the years. He also has Olympic Games experience, playing in four games for Switzerland in 2014.
Niederreiter will be on the Swiss roster in February.
Locks: Jaccob Slavin
Possible: Brett Pesce, Vincent Trocheck
The biggest question marks for the Hurricanes and the Olympics come on Team USA, as the Canes have a couple guys who are on the cusp of making or missing the team.
For starters though, one guy who is not on the cusp is Jaccob Slavin. Slavin has solidified himself as one of the best defensemen in the NHL over the past few years, and he is certainly a top-four American defenseman as well. He should be on the team.
Behind him though things get interesting, as both Brett Pesce and Vincent Trocheck have a decent claim to make the roster.
Pesce has shown he’s a top-caliber NHL defenseman, but he’s going to be fighting the likes of Quinn Hughes, Ryan McDonagh and Seth Jones for some of the final roster spots. A good start to the season for Pesce could certainly help his case.
As for Trocheck, he sits in a very similar boat. He’d make the roster for every other team besides Canada, but on the US squad he’s going to be among the guys competing for one of the final roster spots.
Here's the 2022 USA Men's Olympic Team as voted by you!— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) September 3, 2021
The Canes seemingly have seven absolute locks to make the Olympics, but with guys like Bokk, Kotkaniemi, Trocheck and Pesce that number could easily reach double digits.
It will be fun to watch for Canes fans, and there should be some good matchups.
Svechnickov, Necas, Niderreiter and Andersen will all play group stage games in Group B, while Bokk could face off with the Americans in Group A.