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The NHL x The Olympics: What You Need to Know

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A few weeks ago, it was announced by the National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman that the NHL players would be allowed to compete in the 2026 and 2030 Olympics. This piece of news has excited many fans from all over the world. It will be interesting to see who will represent each country as the teams play for gold in the upcoming winter Olympic games. 

For a little bit of background, NHL players competing in the Winter Olympics is not something new. In fact, NHL players competed in the Winter Olympic games from 1998-2014; team Canada won the last of these games, led by Sidney Crosby. However, in 2017, the NHL decided that they did not want to take a break during the 2017-2018 season to let their players compete for team USA, team Canada, and other countries. Also, around that time, the league had gotten into a spat with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over its “amateur only” policy. The results of the NHL’s decision forced countries to look for their players from minor league teams, the NCAA, and other non-NHL affiliated professional leagues. At the upcoming games, it will be exciting to see international best-on-best competition again, especially to see which players will represent each team in the future.

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Starting with Germany, there are a few young players in the league right now who could be talented assets for the national team. Moritz Seider of the Detroit Red Wings is a smart two-way defenseman who uses his strength and size to his advantage. In 2022, he won the Calder trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. Next, is Tim Stutzle of the Ottawa Senators. He is a dynamic center with explosive offensive strength and strong puck-handling skills. He currently leads the Senators in assists and points. Last is Lukas Reichel of the Chicago Blackhawks. He is an incredible left winger with speed and quickness that helps him to play well in transitions. He is one of the young players who has been instrumental in the Blackhawks rebuild. 

Courtesy of AP photo/Nick Wass

There are many phenomenal Swedish players in the NHL right now, but these few have the potential to help team Sweden dominate. From the Tampa Bay Lightning, Victor Hedman would bring a lot of strengths to the Swedish team. He is a reliable player for the Lightning and a solid piece for their defense. Because of his veteran status, he would bring a lot of knowledge and experience to the Swedish team. Next is Mika Zibanejad of the New York Rangers. The center has a powerful shot and has the ability to adapt to any playing environment. He would also bring a lot of veteran knowledge to the team. Last is Leo Carlsson of the Anaheim Ducks. Though he was just drafted this past summer, he has been a strong asset to the Ducks’ roster. He uses his size and quick sticking skills to gain control over the puck. With a few years to mature, he could definitely be a valuable member of Team Sweden’s roster.

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Slovakia has some really strong players in the NHL right now that could definitely help them finish in the top three at the Olympic tournament again. First, is Juraj Slafkovsky of the Montreal Canadiens. The 20-year-old left winger has played in the Olympics before and helped lead the Slovakian team to a bronze medal. He has a puck-pursuing and a smooth style of play which was why he was so valuable as the first-overall pick in the 2022 draft. Next is Slafkovsky’s former Olympic teammate, Simon Nemec of the New Jersey Devils. He is a strong defenseman with a mature game, but also thrives in offensive situations, such as the power play. Like Slafkovsky, he was also drafted in 2022.  

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Russia has always been a dominant force in the realm of Olympic ice hockey. The first player who could definitely have a spot-on Russia’s Olympic roster is Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has been a force to reckon with in the NHL all season, and his explosive energy combined with his shooting and passing skills would make him a valuable asset to the Russian team. Next is Kucherov’s teammate and Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy. He has been considered for years to be the best goalie in the NHL, with skill that is often unmatched. Last is Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers. He is known for his strong attacking style and his ability to always find the right person at the right time to make amazing plays.

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The USA has so many strong players right now, but there are a few young players who are hungry to win. First, is Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils. He played in the IIHF U-18 Men’s World Championships back in 2018 and 2019, where he led the US teams to winning the silver medal and the bronze medal, respectively. Next is Luke Hughes, also of the New Jersey Devils. He was the captain of the 2023 US World Junior Championship team, where he led the team to winning the bronze medal. Last is Logan Cooley of the Arizona Coyotes. He was a member of the team captained by Luke Hughes in 2023. His innovative and daring plays have made him the top player in quite a few international events. Though young, these players have the international accolades and experience that few others have and could really lead the US National Team to some big wins.  

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Last but not least is the “hockey country” itself, Canada. Starting with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who was the captain of the Canadian gold medal-winning team the last time NHL players were allowed to play in the Olympics. It would be amazing if he led the Canadian national team again, but by the time the next Olympic games roll around he will be 38 years old. However, his leadership skills would be an amazing asset to the Canadian team. Next is Connor Bedard of the Chicago Blackhawks. Though he is only 18, he has a lot of international playing experience, with two World Junior Championship gold medals under his belt. His competitive spirit would help propel team Canada to the top. Last is Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. His speed and goal scoring talent would give team Canada a huge advantage over the rest. Team Canada will be skating towards the gold if they have these three generational talents on their national team.  

There are many talented players from the NHL who will be eligible to play in the 2026 and 2030 Olympic tournament. It will be interesting to see if any of these player predictions come true when the next winter Olympics rolls around. Overall, it will be amazing to have the best players in the NHL representing their home countries.

Edited by Giana Robertaccio

Social Media Content Created by Caroline McGuinness

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