Nick Horwat The Hockey Writers
Penguins’ 2022 Olympics Roster Projections
After an absence of NHL players from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, there is hope that they will return for the 2022 Games in Beijing, China. A new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) could see players going to the Olympics in 2022 and 2026, and the league and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) are nearing a CBA extension.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are represented by eight different countries between their NHL and AHL teams. A good majority of those eight nations will probably see Penguins on their Olympic roster come 2022. Let’s take a look at which players could be wearing their national colors during the Beijing Winter Games.
Sidney Crosby, Canada
Sidney Crosby and the Olympics are no strangers. In the 2010 Vancouver Games, he scored what is now known as the “Golden Goal” to win the gold medal for Canada. Four years later, he was captain for another gold medal-winning team. Sporting a 100 percent success rate, he has made two Olympic teams and came out on top both times.
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By the year 2022, Crosby will be 34 and assuming his play doesn’t diminish, should still be one of the most skilled players in the world. He is a sure lock to continue his dominance on the world stage.
The question for Crosby is not if he will make Team Canada, but what kind of role will he be given? Is it time to hand over the captaincy or his normal first-line center spot to a player like Connor McDavid?
Team Canada’s roster is hard to crack – it would be nice to see players like Kris Letang, Matt Murray, or Tristan Jarry don their native colors, but the competition will always be stiff.
Dominik Simon, Czech Republic
Currently, Dominik Simon’s 64 career points put him at 14th among current NHL players from the Czech Republic. This doesn’t necessarily make his spot at the 2022 Beijing Games certain, but it doesn’t hurt. A strong performance in the 2020-21 NHL season could heighten his value as an international player.
After the 2018-19 season ended for the Penguins, Simon joined the Czech Republic for the 2019 IIHF World Championship, where they finished fourth, just missing a bronze medal in a shootout round against Russia. Simon finished the tournament with 10 games played and 12 points.
On the Penguins, Simon can usually be found on the top line as a winger. With the Czech team, he was experimented with at the center position and had success. Between his versatility at the forward positions and recent international success, Simon making the Czech Olympic team in 2022 is not far-fetched.
Teddy Blueger, Latvia
We have yet to see if the Latvian National Team is qualified for the 2022 Olympics. The final qualifying round is not set to start until late August of 2021.
Let’s play fortune teller and say Latvia qualifies, Penguins center Teddy Blueger (Teodors Blugers in his native tongue) will surely be a part of that squad. The pool of NHLers that hail from Latvia is not deep, with only five active players highlighted by Blueger, Zemgus Girgensons, and Elvis Merzlinkins. This is not to say that NHL status assures you a spot on your country’s Olympic team, but it sure helps when the pickings are that slim.
For the Penguins, Blueger plays as one of the best defensive forwards. He’s a staple on penalty kill units and the center on one of the best shutdown lines in hockey with Zach Aston-Reese and Brandon Tanev.
Evgeni Malkin, Russia
In the coming 2022 Games, Team Russia will be under a similar banner to the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) again, as the Russian doping ban will still be in effect.
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Evgeni Malkin has already participated for Team Russia at the Olympics three times but has yet to receive a medal. 2022 will most likely be his last chance at Olympic success. It’s hard to believe that a team like Russia hasn’t taken home a medal in an Olympics with NHL participation since their bronze finish in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. A team with Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Nikita Kucherov will be a sight to fear for opposing defenses in Beijing.
The OAR team will be looking to repeat as Olympic gold medal winners in 2022. Competition may be a little stiffer with the inclusion of NHL stars, but Malkin could be a huge help. In his three appearances in Olympic games, he has put up 15 total points.
Patric Hornqvist, Sweden
While both Patric Hornqvist and Marcus Pettersson were on the 2019 IIHF World Championship team, the odds of them both playing together during the 2022 Olympics are slim. The Swedish team is getting younger and faster and has one of the best defensive lineups in the world.
Hornqvist still has a decent chance of making the team and despite his age; he is a guy that can get under the opponents’ skin and be a fierce net-front presence. The veteran could be a good balance for the young, fast skaters like Elias Pettersson or Gustav Nyquist. If Hornqvist makes the 2022 Swedish Olympic Team, he would most likely be the oldest skater at the age of 34.
2022 wouldn’t be Hornqvist’s first appearance at the Olympics with Tre Kronor – he played with Team Sweden during the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Marcus Pettersson making this team would be a longshot considering some of the elite talent that Sweden boasts on the blue line. Victor Hedman, John Klingberg, and Rasmus Dahlin sit atop Team Sweden’s defensive core, just to name a few.
Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, John Marino, USA
The USA Olympic team is still searching for their first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice squad, and the 2022 team could be the best lineup they’ve had in a long time. It’s also possible that the same lineup is littered with Penguin skaters. Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust, and John Marino have earned a respectful look at making the Olympic roster.
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It goes without saying that Guentzel has become one of the best goal-scorers on the Penguins, and is able to keep up with some of the best in the league. Most Team USA roster predictions feature the Nebraska native and if he is able to keep up his stellar play during the 2020-21 season, he will be a sure lock to make the team.
Now things will get a little interesting. Players like Rust and Marino may be longshots but if they can improve upon their well-defined play, they might be good depth choices for the national team.
Rust has proved to be a top-tier goal-scorer with Malkin, putting up a team-leading 27 goals in 55 games. If his scoring numbers continue to rise, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t make the team in a depth role. It would take some effort and a little luck, but seeing Rust on Team USA shouldn’t be far-fetched.
Marino is another interesting choice. He only has one year of NHL experience to speak for right now, but his future is bright and has many opportunities to represent his country. Why not get an early start in international play in 2022? He can play anywhere he’s placed in the lineup and does not shy away from shooting the puck. He averaged 20:15 of ice time in his 56 games and had 61 shots on goal, while also totaling 77 blocked shots.
When the puck drops on the 2022 Olympic Games, NHL players are more than likely going to be there and there could be plenty of Penguins’ representatives from many countries. And some fresh faces could be making their Olympic debuts, too.
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