Breaking down which Red Wings players could have attended the 2022 Olympics
Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
By Scott Ony1 year ago
USA Hockey named its 2022 Olympic men’s ice hockey roster on Thursday and, as was the case at the 2018 PyeongChang games, it features zero players from the National Hockey League.
Due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and shutdowns around the league, the NHL elected not to send its players to Beijing for the 2022 games. Team USA will instead feature a mix of amateurs, European league stars, former NHLers, and career minor-league players — and the rest of the participating teams will likely be constructed in a similar fashion.
The NHL pulling out of the Beijing games undoubtedly represents a missed opportunity for multiple members of the Detroit Red Wings (including @Moritz Seider, who was one of three players already named to Team Germany).
Still, despite currently ranking in the bottom third of NHL teams in terms of points percentage, the Red Wings are hardly short on Olympic-calibre talent. Here’s a look at which members of the Red Wings would have been locks to attend the 2022 Olympics — and which players may have had longer odds to make it.
Red Wings defenseman @Moritz Seider. Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.
@Moritz Seider (Germany)
Coming off a second-place finish behind the Olympic Athletes from Russia at PyeongChang 2018, Germany is a rapidly improving hockey nation.
Seider is at the peak of the latest wave of German hockey talent. The 20-year-old rookie has exceeded all expectations in his first NHL season and would have been the top defenseman on the 2022 edition of the German national team.
Seider’s relatively unique combination of elite skills (skating, intelligence, and physicality) makes him more than capable of anchoring any blue line. With Seider and Tim Stützle continuing to emerge, the future looks bright for a Leon Draisaitl-led Team Germany.
@Dylan Larkin (USA)
Team USA always boasts one of the deepest rosters in best-on-best international tournaments. Even so, Larkin almost certainly would have played a major role on the American team had NHL players attended. The 25-year-old center leads the Red Wings with 32 points in 33 games while wearing the captain’s “C” on his chest.
Without a doubt, Larkin is a top-three American center in the NHL. On Team USA, Larkin likely would have slotted in as the second-line center behind @Auston Matthews, potentially sliding down another line if @Jack Eichel recovered in time for the games.
Fortunately for Larkin, he is only 25 years old and — barring injury or decline — will be on the 2026 team if NHL players are available.
@Filip Hronek (Czechia)
Like Larkin and Seider, Hronek was expected to be a key contributor for his team at the Olympics. The 24-year-old blueliner has been a significant piece for the Red Wings over the last four seasons and ranks among the top Czech defensemen in the NHL.
Thus far in 2021–22, Hronek has averaged over 22 minutes per game. He’s also amassed 19 points in 36 contests, putting him on pace for a career-high 43 points over a full season.
In Beijing, Hronek likely would have seen heavy deployment in the offensive zone — including on the power play — while occupying a top-four spot at even strength.
Red Wings forward @Filip Zadina. Photo credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.
@Filip Zadina (Czechia)
Zadina almost certainly would have joined Hronek on the Czech national team. The 22-year-old winger has 10 points in 36 games this season, placing him in a tie with @David Kampf and @Filip Chytil for 10th among Czech NHL forwards.
The 2018 sixth overall pick likely would have slotted in on Team Czechia as a bottom-six forward, well behind the likes of @David Pastrnak, @Tomas Hertl, and @Jakub Voracek. That said, Zadina could very easily have found a niche on a Czech power-play unit in Beijing.
Zadina has had a difficult time adjusting to the NHL game. Nevertheless, the 2018 sixth-overall pick is simply too skilled to have been omitted from the Czech roster for the Olympics.
@Vladislav Namestnikov (Russia)
Namestnikov is one of the most reliable two-way Russian forwards in the NHL. While he may not provide the excitement or scoring of @Alex Ovechkin or @Nikita Kucherov, Namestnikov is the type of 200-foot forward every aspiring championship team needs.
Namestnikov is capable of playing all three forward positions. With Russia’s impressive depth on both wings, the 29-year-old likely would have slotted in as a middle-six penalty-killing center on the Olympic team. Namestnikov has 10 goals and 18 points in 38 games with the Red Wings this season.
@Pius Suter (Switzerland)
A 24-year-old rookie in 2020–21, Suter is a classic late bloomer who has turned into a reliable NHL forward. After being cut loose by the Chicago Blackhawks, Suter joined the Red Wings on a two-year contract last July and currently sits in a tie with Namestnikov for sixth in team scoring with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 38 games.
Much like the projected Russian squad, Switzerland’s national talent pool is deep on both wings and shallow down the middle. Suter would have been a practical lock in to play as the second-line center behind New Jersey Devils star @Nico Hischier.
On the bubble
Red Wings forward @Lucas Raymond. Photo credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports.
@Lucas Raymond (Sweden)
Prior to Raymond’s emergence as an NHL star this season, the 19-year-old rookie forward was not included on the Swedish hockey federation’s 55-man long list of players under consideration to play at the Beijing games.
In November, after Raymond’s impressive debut with the Red Wings, Team Sweden requested an IIHF exemption to allow Raymond to be selected for the Olympics despite his exclusion from the initial list.
While Sweden’s team is incredibly deep, the fact that they asked for the exemption shows they were interested in bringing him to the tournament in some capacity. He could have gained invaluable experience in Beijing either as an extra forward or a regular on-ice presence.
Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Raymond will be a top-six forward for Team Sweden at the next Olympic games.
@Alex Nedeljkovic (USA)
Nedeljkovic has performed well with the Red Wings this season, posting a 10–10–4 record and a .916 save percentage in 26 appearances. Nevertheless, owing largely to his relative lack of NHL experience and the numerous goaltenders ahead of him on the American national depth chart, it’s unlikely Nedeljkovic would have been selected for Team USA at the 2022 Olympics.
The 26-year-old Red Wings goaltender has impressed all season playing behind an inconsistent defensive unit, often being one of the only players keeping the team competitive. According to MoneyPuck, Nedeljkovic has saved 9.3 goals above expected this season (the ninth-best GSAx mark in the NHL).
Still … @Connor Hellebuyck. @Jack Campbell. @Thatcher Demko. @John Gibson. Even @Jonathan Quick is having a renaissance year. Nedeljkovic is undoubtedly a good goaltender, but he only has 55 NHL games under his belt. If he keeps up his strong play, he could be a leading candidate for the 2026 Olympic team.
Just missed out
Injured Red Wings forward @Jakub Vrana. Photo credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports.
@Jakub Vrana (Czechia)
Acquired in the @Anthony Mantha trade last season, Vrana immediately impressed with eight goals in his first eleven games as a Red Wing. He has the ability to be one of Detroit’s best players and certainly ranks among the best Czech players in the NHL.
Unfortunately, Vrana has missed the entire 2021–22 season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Last week, The Athletic reported that there is still no firm timeline for when the 25-year-old winger could return:
[…] Vrana is not yet cleared for shooting.“Minor stickhandling I’d say,” [Red Wings head coach Jeff] Blashill said. “Not even really passing.”“I’m like 25 to 40 percent right now,” Vrana said of his shooting. “This is kind of a process where you want to take it a little slower, you want to make sure you’re healed up. So I’m not going to go out there and take clappers. But I’m working on my shots, 25 percent right now.”
A healthy Vrana could have been a first-line forward for the Czech team, possibly joining his Red Wings teammates Hronek and Zadina in Beijing.
@Thomas Greiss (Germany)
Greiss has previously represented Germany at two Olympic games: Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010. The 35-year-old veteran remains one of the top German goaltenders in professional hockey and is talented enough to have been the backup to @Philipp Grubauer in Beijing.
However, Greiss has not represented Germany in international competition since 2017 due to his alleged political views that do not mesh with the values of the German national team. Even while NHL players were still set to attend the Beijing games, Greiss would not have been considered for a spot.
Looking to up your fantasy hockey game? DailyFaceoff has the tools you need for both daily and season-long fantasy leagues, including a lineup optimizer, daily projections, and a whole lot more. Sign up for the DailyFaceoff tools here.
Recent articles from Scott Ony