By Bryan Murphy | Follow me on Twitter @bryan_murphy10
It looks like the Olympics are going to be back with the best talent in the world at the 2022 Olympics.
The NHL and NHLPA recently agreed to let NHL players back into the Olympics in 2022 and 2026 as a part of their CBA agreement. It’s not 100% locked in yet, but if all goes well, the best of the NHL will be representing their home countries.
However, the last time we saw NHLers organized to play for their countries was at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, so we’re talking a six-year difference in rosters.
For the Bruins, there’s a handful of guarantees that should be playing in Beijing, but also a number of bubble players who could see their names on the roster.
The Bruins haven’t had a representative in the Olympics since 2010 when Tim Thomas was backing up Ryan Miller, but that could change in 2022.
Both Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug stand out as options on a young USA team. Where they fit in the defensive core is a mystery.
Outside of a lethal pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, and veteran John Carlson, I would say the next three spots are up in the air for the US. I wouldn’t be shocked to see both Krug and McAvoy included in the top three pairings, however with young stars in the making like Quinn Hughes and Adam Fox continuing to develop, it wouldn’t be shocking to see both Boston defensemen on the outside as the seventh or eighth defensemen. A very underrated Jaccob Slavin also should compete for a spot on the roster.
McAvoy has not only international experience, but tons of success to go along with it. He has won gold at every junior level – the U17, U18 and World Juniors. He also played in the IIHF World Championship in 2018, leading all defensemen in scoring with nine points despite only playing in six of the nine total games. USA won bronze at that tournament.
Krug also saw action at the IIHF World Championship in 2015. USA won bronze also at that tournament where Krug led all USA defensemen with six points.
This could be the first of perhaps two or three Olympics for Krug or McAvoy. But it won’t be easy for either with tough competition for roster spots. Besides, Krug may not be on the Bruins roster by the time 2022 rolls around (but we sure hope so.)
The dynamic duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand has shined in Boston and should be shining again on the international scale for Team Canada.
Bergeron has played in two Olympics already and is in line to be playing in his third, while Marchand would be playing in his first ever Olympic games.
However both played together at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and if what we saw then is any indication of what Marchand and Bergeron can bring to Canada in 2022, then buckle in folks and get ready for some highlights.
Playing alongside superstar Sidney Crosby, that trio propelled Canada to the World Cup of Hockey title. Marchand and Bergeron were No. 1-2 in goals (Marchand with five, Bergeron with four) and right behind Crosby for the lead in points out of all players at the tourney, with eight and seven points respectively.
In the semifinal game, with Canada losing 2-1 to Russia in the 2nd period, Marchand scored back-to-back goals that kickstarted four straight goals from Canada and secured them a 5-3 win. In Game 1 of the finals against Europe, it was Marchand who started the scoring and Bergeron who finished it, as Canada prevailed 3-1.
But it was in Game 2, with a chance to clinch the title that the two stepped up the most. With just under three minutes to go down 1-0, Bergeron deflected a shot from Brent Burns on the power play that snuck by fellow Bruin Jaroslav Halak (who I’ll get to later) to tie the game.
In the final minute, it was Brad Marchand who came flying off the bench, took a drop pass from Jonathan Toews and fired it home past Halak with 43 seconds left in the game to put Canada ahead and send the Air Canada Centre into chaos.
The Bruins surprisingly don’t have many other Canadians on the team, so Bergeron and Marchand will most likely be the only two representatives. That is unless Jake DeBrusk and/or Jack Studnicka turn into superstars in the next two years (which would be pretty, pretty nice to see).
Barring an early retirement, Tuukka Rask should be starting in the crease for Finland as the lone Fin in Boston.
Rask was impressive in the 2014 Olympics, helping Finland to a bronze medal. He allowed just one goal to the Russians in the quarterfinals to send Finland to the semifinals, but unfortunately came down with the flu and was unable to play in that game. After Finland lost 2-1 to Sweden, Rask came back and shutout the United States to win the bronze.
I think Rask and all of Finland would like to forget the disappointing performance at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016, where Finland went 0-3, finishing last in their group, joining Team USA as the big losers of the tournament. However, it’s easy to point the finger at the offense, as Finland scored just one goal in the three games of the tournament.
In terms of goalie competition, it looks like it will be Jusse Saros and Mikko Koskinen joining Rask in 2022. Saros seems to be on the verge of replacing fellow Fin, Pekka Rinne, in Nashville and could very well do the same at the 2022 Olympics. Rinne has seen a drop in production in recent years and will be 38 years old by the time the tournament rolls around.
For the Bruins, they currently have three Czechs on their roster and most likely all three will be playing for the Czech Republic in 2022.
David Krejci has represented his homeland in the previous two Olympics in 2014 and 2010 and that won’t be any different in 2022. While he may no longer be on the Bruins by the time 2022 comes around, he should be slotted as the first line center for the Czech Republic, maybe second line if Tomas Hertl continues to play down the middle rather than the wing.
Krejci scored three points in both 2010 and 2014, and also has participated in the IIHF World Championships in 2008, 2012 and 2018. He opted out of the World Cup of Hockey in 2016 to rehab from hip surgery, but he’s been a staple in Czech hockey for years and should be continuing that until he retires.
David Pastrnak will be far and beyond the best player on the Czech roster and will get to play in the Olympics for the first time. He’s had years of experience playing at World Juniors and in the IIHF World Championships, leading his team in scoring on multiple occasions. Surprisingly, he was pointless in the three games at the World Cup of Hockey.
Ondrej Kase is the third member of the Bruins that should be wearing the Czech jersey in Beijing. Similar to Krejci in the fact that he may no longer be in Boston with just one year left on his deal, but Kase should be playing in his first Olympics. Kase has only played in the World Juniors, as he was not selected to play at the World Cup of Hockey. But his speed will be a solid addition for the Czech team and provide a solid third line option at wing.
Slovakia isn’t a shoe-in to be selected for the Olympics, as it still needs to qualify for the Olympics, which we will know who qualified in August of 2021. But if Slovakia makes the big stage, two veterans may be suiting up for the team.
The face of Slovakia hockey is big Zdeno Chara and he could potentially be playing in his fourth Olympic games. Chara has been suiting up for the Slovaks since 2006 and captained the team in 2010 and 2014. If Slovakia makes the tournament, Chara would be 45 years old and as Bruins fans have seen, Father Time is certainly beginning to catch up on Chara. Even if Chara retires from the NHL before the Olympics, he could still suit up one last time for his homeland.
In addition, Bruins’ backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak has been a mainstay in the crease for Slovakia for years. The only active Slovakian goalie in the NHL, Halak isn’t what he once was, but still provides the best option in net for his country. He was the starter in 2010 and split playing time with the now-retired Peter Budaj. Halak’s competition for the job will be Patrik Rybar, who plays in the Finnish Liiga, and Marek Ciliak, who plays in the Czech Extraliga.
Both Chara and Halak played for Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and individually helped Europe make a surprise run at the title before falling to Canada in a best two-out-of-three championship.
If Slovakia makes it to the Olympics, expect Halak to be in net. But we may have seen the last of Chara on the international scale.