Projecting Canada's Olympic men's hockey roster: Locks, hopefuls, and long shots

·10-min read
Expect to see Sidney Crosby (87) back at the centre of things for Team Canada in Beijing. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Expect to see Sidney Crosby (87) back at the centre of things for Team Canada in Beijing. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We're officially three months from the start of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, which will begin on Feb. 4.

For the first time since 2014, NHL players will be able to compete in the tournament. With the Games rapidly approaching and the NHL season underway, it's a good time to start forecasting who will be on Canada's roster when the tournament rolls around.

Here's an early look at what Team Canada could look like.

Forwards

Locks: Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Jonathan Huberdeau, Mark Scheifele, Mitch Marner, Mark Stone

McDavid and Crosby: These two players have already been named to the team, meaning their spots on the roster are not up for debate.

MacKinnon: Since entering the NHL as a rookie during the 2013-14 season, MacKinnon has recorded the sixth-most points among Canadian forwards. One of the most dangerous players in the NHL when the puck is on his stick, he'll be a featured member of this squad.

Marchand: It's about time we recognize Marchand as a top-five player in the NHL. Since the 2015-16 season, no Canadian forward has scored more goals (207) or has a better plus-minus rating (+129) than the talented Boston Bruins star. 

Bergeron: Bergeron has a longstanding and successful history with Hockey Canada. The two-way centre has won two Olympic gold medals, a World Championship gold medal, a World Junior Championship gold medal, and a World Cup gold medal. He's simply done it all and his experience will be welcomed once again, as he'll likely form a line with Crosby and Marchand given the unit's success at the World Cup.

Stamkos: Stamkos is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Rocket Richard winner. He was also on the World Cup team that struck gold in 2016, and few are more deserving of a spot on the team than he is.

Tavares: Tavares continues to be one of the most complete centres in the NHL, and has terrific offensive upside. Since he entered the league during the 2009-10 season, his 367 goals are second only to Stamkos.

Sep 24, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team Canada forward John Tavares (20)  reacts after scoring against Team Russia during a semifinal game in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Air Canada Centre. Canada defeated Russia 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
John Tavares has suited up in some big games for Canada in the past. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Huberdeau: One of the more under-appreciated Canadians, Huberdeau's spot on this roster shouldn't be up for debate. Since being snubbed for the World Cup in 2016, his 224 assists are the eighth-most in the NHL among Canadian players. He's an elite playmaker and I'd be floored if he was absent from the roster.

Scheifele: A complete player with great hockey sense, Scheifele will most likely make his first-ever appearance for Canada at the Olympics in 2022. He won a World Championship gold medal with Team Canada in 2016, and his 508 points since becoming a full-time member of the Winnipeg Jets in 2014-15 are ninth-most among all Canadians.

Marner: Marner's been a standout for the Toronto Maple Leafs since joining the team in 2016-17. His 257 helpers since entering the league are fourth-most among all Canadian players, and he represented the nation at the World Championships in 2017, earning a silver medal for his country.

Stone: Stone's a great example of a player who does everything right both offensively and defensively. He's the only player of this group that wasn't drafted in the first or second round but don't confuse his lack of draft pedigree with lack of skill. He's not an elite point producer, but he's tallied 60 points or more in six of his last seven campaigns.

Hopefuls: Brayden Point, Ryan O'Reilly, Tyler Seguin, Claude Giroux, Taylor Hall, David Perron, Sean Couturier

Point: Point's 14 playoff goals over the past two postseasons are the most of any player in the NHL. The 25-year-old has been clutch for the Tampa Bay Lightning in each of their last two runs to the Stanley Cup, and he figures to slot into a bottom-six role with Team Canada.

O'Reilly: A Stanley Cup champion, Conn Smythe winner, and Selke Trophy winner, O'Reilly is an accomplished NHL star who also represented Canada at the 2016 World Cup. He's a complete player who's one of the NHL's best faceoff men. 

Seguin: Seguin missed most of the 2020-21 season while dealing with a torn labrum in his hip, and although the early-season results haven't been encouraging this year, he's still very likely in strong consideration for Team Canada's roster. He's represented his country once before at the 2015 World Championships. He led the tournament with nine goals and helped Canada secure a gold medal.

10 September 2016: Tyler Seguin (19) with a nice move across the blue line during a game between Team Canada and Team USA during World Cup of Hockey Pre-Tournament action at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, On. (Photo by Jay Kopinski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Tyler Seguin will have to earn his way onto Canada's roster for the 2022 Games. (Photo by Jay Kopinski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Giroux: Over the last 10 NHL seasons, Giroux is fourth among all Canadian players with 623 points. His talent has been overlooked by the Philadelphia Flyers' lack of team success over the past five years, as Philly missed the playoffs in three of those campaigns. He's still an excellent playmaker and would serve as an asset for Canada.

Hall: His last couple of NHL seasons have been underwhelming, but he's off to a pretty strong start to the 2021-22 campaign with two goals and five points across seven games. He's one of just six active Canadian players to win the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

Perron: It's hard to overlook what Perron has done over the past few seasons when considering players for the Team Canada roster. Since the 2017-18 campaign, he's averaged 0.92 points per game, which ties him for 15th among all Canadians. A Stanley Cup winner, Perron is a feisty competitor who has a knack for getting under his opponents' skin.

Couturier: A gritty forward with offensive upside, Couturier has started the 2021-22 season on a strong note. In eight games, he's produced four goals and 11 points, the latter of which ranks first on the Flyers. He, like Perron, has averaged 0.92 points per game since 2017-18.

Long shots: Jonathan Toews, Mathew Barzal, Zach Hyman, Logan Couture

Toews: After missing all of last season with Chronic Immune Response Syndrome, Toews has started off the 2021-22 campaign with six assists in 10 games. He'll need to turn in a really strong first half to squeak his way onto the roster.

Barzal: Barzal's been good over the last three seasons, but he hasn't been able to match his impressive 85-point rookie campaign in 2017-18. His speed could be an asset on the bigger ice, but I think he just misses the cut.

Hyman: Now joining forces with McDavid on the Edmonton Oilers' first line and top power-play unit, Hyman could hold a role similar to the one Chris Kunitz held on Team Canada in 2014 when he was brought onto the team largely due to his excellent chemistry with Crosby. A hard-nosed player with great speed, Hyman has tallied six goals and eight points through eight contests this season.

Couture: He represented Canada at the World Cup in 2016, but hasn't played for his country at the Olympics. After a quiet 2020-21 campaign, Couture has been rolling to begin the 2021-22 season with three goals and nine points in seven outings. 

Defense

Locks: Alex Pietrangelo, Cale Makar

Pietrangelo: Like McDavid and Crosby, Pietrangelo has already been named to Team Canada.

Makar: The young Colorado Avalanche star has been sensational. Over the last 10 seasons, no Canadian defenceman has posted a higher points-per-game figure (0.92) than Makar. His spot on the team shouldn't be in question.

Hopefuls: Dougie Hamilton, Aaron Ekblad, Drew Doughty, Shea Theodore, Ryan Ellis, Darnell Nurse

Hamilton: Over the last five seasons, Hamilton has finished inside the top-10 of Norris Trophy voting three times. During that same stretch, his 221 points are fifth among all Canadian rearguards. He's a smart and talented two-way defenceman.

Ekblad: Ekblad was in the midst of a Norris Trophy-calibre season in 2020-21 before breaking his leg midway through the year. He's returned to full health to begin the 2021-22 campaign and he's been excellent. He's posted three goals and nine points through nine contests and continues to be one of the NHL's very best blueliners.

Doughty: The Los Angeles Kings' defender was placed on injured reserve after suffering a right knee contusion, but I still think he finds a way onto Team Canada. The ailment will keep him out for roughly eight weeks, giving him enough time to return before the tournament starts. Doughty is still one of the league's top rearguards and probably doesn't get enough credit for propping up a Kings defence that's not very good.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23: Drew Doughty of Canada in action during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Canada and Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)
Drew Doughty is no stranger to the international stage. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

Theodore: Few defencemen in the NHL are a more exciting watch than Theodore. He's electric when the puck is on his stick, and rock-solid in his own end of the ice, as evidenced by his 4.5 defensive point share last season that ranked him fourth among all blueliners.

Ellis: One of the most underrated defencemen in the NHL, Ellis is capable of doing anything that's asked of him on the ice. He can kill penalties, play on the man advantage, and he's a willing shot-blocker. His versatility could be a benefit for Canada at the Olympics.

Nurse: Nurse's 5.3 defensive point share was the highest mark posted by any player in the NHL last season. He also posted a career-high 16 goals last year — good for second among all defencemen. He's a strong skater for someone with his 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame and will be in the mix for a spot on Team Canada.

Longshots: Thomas Chabot, Morgan Rielly

Chabot: Anchoring the Ottawa Senators' blue line, Chabot has done an admirable job over the past few years. Since the 2018-19 season, his 128 points sit tied with Theodore for sixth among all Canadian rearguards.

Rielly: The Maple Leafs haven't possessed the best supporting cast on defence during Rielly's tenure with the team, but he still continues to put forward solid seasons. He's now three years removed from his elite 2018-19 campaign, but he's still a quality defender who can hold his own at both ends of the ice.

Goalies

Lock: Jordan Binnington

Binnington: Goaltendending is evidently Canada's largest weakness, but Binnington is a fine enough option. He's begun the 2021-22 campaign on a strong note, winning five of his six starts thanks to a .926 save percentage and a 2.52 goals-against-average.

Hopefuls: Carey Price, Darcy Kuemper, Carter Hart

Price: Price is expected to return from the NHL's player assistance program shortly, and if all goes smoothly, he'll likely vault up into the locks section. He backstopped Team Canada to gold at both the 2014 Olympics and the 2016 World Cup.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Goalie Carey Price #31 of Canada poses with the gold medal won during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Carey Price won gold with Canada at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Kuemper: Since the 2017-18 NHL season, no Canadian goaltender has posted a better save percentage than Kuemper's mark of .921. He's having a good start to the season with the Avs and has a good shot at squeaking onto the roster as a third goalie.

Hart: After a truly horrible 2020-21 campaign, Hart has rebounded strongly this season. Through six starts, he owns a masterful .928 save percentage, and his 5.1 goals saved above expected is tops among all Canadian puck stoppers in 2021-22, according to MoneyPuck.

Long shot: Cam Talbot

Talbot: The Minnesota Wild netminder has been a workhorse for the team to begin the 2021-22 season, starting in eight of the squad's nine games. Since the 2019-20 season, he's produced a respectable .915 save percentage, but likely misses the cut for Team Canada barring an unbelievable stretch of hockey sometime between now and the roster unveiling.

More from Yahoo Sports

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting