On Friday, the NHL and NHLPA announced that an agreement had been reached to send NHL players to the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. With that in mind, which Habs could be candidates to represent their respective countries?
At first glance, there aren’t a lot of viable options on the surface but here we go.
Canada: Carey Price – This is the easiest one. He was their backstop the last time they participated and even if he isn’t the goalie he was then, he is still one of Canada’s top three netminders. The starting spot isn’t quite a guarantee – we’ll see what the next few months bring but if he’s healthy, he’s there.
Some have suggested Nick Suzuki could have an outside shot at an end-of-roster role but I don’t see it happening unless there are a boatload of injuries and Suzuki is having a high-end season. Even then, it’d be iffy. Tyler Toffoli would need another major start offensively to be on the radar even with the year he had.
USA: Jeff Petry – Petry has rarely been considered for international duty but he has to at least have an outside shot on a back of the roster role, especially if they want some veterans to go along with some of their younger options. A good showing as Montreal’s new top blueliner would help his cause.
Cole Caufield – There are a lot of quality wingers to choose from so it might not quite be his time yet but a good showing out of the gate could have him in the mix for a limited role as a reserve forward. As someone who projects to be a big part of their program moving forward, he’s a candidate to go simply for the experience if they want a youngster or two around for that purpose.
Finland: Joel Armia – He has been a good, albeit inconsistent, role player for the Habs for several years now and would likely have the same one with Finland. He probably wouldn’t crack their top six but would be counted on to win board battles and kill penalties.
Artturi Lehkonen – Same idea as Armia although I wouldn’t peg his odds as high. Finland still has a reputation of being a country that puts a lot of emphasis on two-way play and that could give Lehkonen a leg up on some more offensive-minded forwards for a spot on the fourth line.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – We’ll see if he’s still a Hab by the time the weekend is up but if he’s still around, he’ll have a shot at a spot. Could he be deployed in a checking role? (He’s not playing ahead of Aleksander Barkov and Sebastian Aho in the top six.) And would familiarity with Lehkonen and Armia help give him a leg up on a spot? It’s enough to give him a chance.
Russia: Alexander Romanov – We’ll see how many spots the Russian Federation earmarks for KHL players which could ultimately push Romanov out of a spot but if he progresses as many hope and expect he will, he’ll certainly be worthy of consideration at the very least.
As you can see, beyond Price, it appears as if most (if not all) of Montreal’s remaining Olympic options would be in very limited roles.
Worth noting, there is still a scenario where the league doesn’t participate if COVID-19 conditions deem it unsafe or impractical but that’s a decision to be made down the road. Either way, it looks like a lot of Montreal’s players will be in for an extended rest for the stretch run and while that may be disappointing from a fan perspective, it may not be a bad thing if they’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot by then.