NHL Returns to the Olympics

The+players+won+out+in+an+ongoing+battle+with+the+league+to+return+to+the+Olympics+with+a+chance+to+win+the+gold+medal.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

The players won out in an ongoing battle with the league to return to the Olympics with a chance to win the gold medal. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

After only taking only one tournament off, the National Hockey League will return to the Olympics for the 2022 Games in Beijing. This is the result of an eight-year disagreement between the league and the players in which the NHLPA wanted to play for the gold medal and the league did not want to pause the season for two weeks. The players have gotten their way and the Russians will defend their gold medal with the help of Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Artemi Panarin. 

The United States and Canada will both be in contention for the gold medal once again, and this might be the best chance the Americans have at their third gold since 2010. Connor Hellebuyck (Michigan) has taken a step forward and cemented himself among the top goaltenders in the league. Add in a blue line of Seth Jones (Colorado), Zach Werenski (Michigan) and Ryan McDonagh (Minnesota), and the defensive core looks solid for the stars and stripes. 

Up front is where Canada usually has the advantage, but the Americans will be able to throw out a forward unit that challenges for the best historically on paper. Starting down the middle, Auston Matthews (Arizona), Jack Eichel (Massachusetts), Dylan Larkin (Michigan) and Jack Hughes (Florida) will have a tough task against the Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby-led squad. The wings are commanded by Patrick Kane (New York) and the Tkachuk brothers (St. Louis/Arizona). All in all, this is an extremely solid team that will have a chance to compete for the gold medal. 

The Rangers will most likely have the most Olympians of the three local teams. Panarin will represent Russia, unless a political issue stands in the way. Adam Fox has a great chance to make the American team after his terrific season, Mika Zibanejad will probably be the number one center for the Swedes and Igor Shesterkin has an outside chance of backing up Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Russians.  

Mat Barzal has quite the list of Canadian centers to leapfrog to make the team. McDavid, Crosby, MacKinnon, Bergeron, O’Reilly and Tavares are just a few. His chances to make these games feel slim. Anders Lee and Brock Nelson are in the same position as Barzal with the American forward core, and Varlamov and Sorokin are behind Vasilevskiy and Shesterkin on the Russian goaltending depth chart. 

The only Devils with a chance to make the team are Jack Hughes, who will likely team up with his brother Quinn on the American team, and Nico Hischier for Switzerland. Younger players will have their chance in the future, but only the former top picks will make it this year.

NHL fans across the league are excited to see their favorite players don the international jerseys for the first time since the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. While this might not be Gary Bettman’s ideal situation, both North American teams will make a run at the medals and hopefully bring new fans into the league as well.