Not a night goes by without American-born players putting on a show for their NHL teams.
A quick look at the scoring leaders, 12 of the top 40 scorers in the NHL heading into Thursday’s games were American. It is easy to wonder what might have been if the NHL players were allowed to play in the upcoming Olympics as was originally planned.
However, with so many issues coming up with the health and safety of players due to COVID-19, the decision was made not to have this year’s Olympics include current NHL stars.
Just imagine Auston Matthews, Dylan Larkin, J.T. Miller and Joe Pavelski centering the four U.S. lines. The wingers could come from a group including Johnny Gaudreau, Matt Tkachuk and his brother Brady, Chris Kreider, Kyle Connor, Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Jake Guentzel, Jason Robertson and Troy Terry. Maybe young stars like Jack Hughes, Josh Norris and Trevor Zegras could be in the mix to play on the wing as well.
The options among right-shot defensemen would include Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoy, John Carlson and Jacob Trouba. Left-shot defenseman could include Quinn Hughes and Zach Werenski.
Would Jack Campbell be in goal or maybe Thatcher Demko, John Gibson or Connor Hellebuyck between the pipes?
It was no wonder that the U.S. (+300) with the second-best odds behind only Canada (+200) and just ahead of the Russian Olympic Committee (+400). That is not how the current odds look.
The rosters are much different without the NHL stars set to take part so here is a look at some of the top teams for those who bet online.
Russian Olympic Committee
Artem Anisimov, a four-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL, KHL veteran Nikita Gusev who spent three seasons in the NHL and former Buffalo Sabres first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko headline the list of forwards. Nikita Nesterov, who played for three NHL teams, and former Los Angeles Kings second-ronnd selection are among the defensemen.
They are part of the reason why they have the best current odds at +160. They kick off the tournament against Switzerland and the Olympic betting odds list ROC at -400 in the game.
Valtteri Filppula, who scored 197 career goals in the NHL, is joined by fellow former NHL forwards Markus Granlund and Leo Komarov. Sami Vatanen is probably the most recognizable name among the defensemen.
Goaltending could be the strength of this team as both Harri Sateri and Jussi Olkinoura were part of the silver-medal winning team at the 2021 World Championships and that is likely why Finland is the No. 2 pick at +400 according to the Las Vegas odds.
Marcus Kruger and Joakim Nordstrom were bottom six forwards during their time in the NHL while Lucas Wallmark is best known for his time with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The defense will be led by Henrik Tommernes, Christian Folin and Oscar Fantenberg.
Sweden’s odds were +450 while with NHL players, the Swedes were the No. 4 pick at +600.
Eric Staal was a six-time 30-goal scorer in the NHL after being taken second overall in the 2003 NHL draft and a 441-goal scorer in the NHL will garner plenty of attention at the Olympics. The rest of the forward group consists of players who saw time at the NHL level but were mostly role players. An intriguing name to watch is Mason McTavish, the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NHL draft who had two goals in nine games this season with the Anaheim Ducks.
Speaking of players selected early in the 2021 NHL draft, No. 1 overall pick Owen Power will be one of the top defensemen in the tournament. Power could be in the NHL but opted to return to Michigan rather than sign with the Sabres right away. He has 26 points in 24 goals for the Wolverines.
Jason Demers, who played in 699 career NHL regular-season games, will be a veteran presence on the blue line.
Devon Levi, who is lighting it up at Northeastern with a 1.55 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in 24 games, figures to be the No. 1 goalie for Canada.
When it comes to star power, the Czech Republic could have it led by former Boston Bruins center David Krejci. If Krejci performs as well in the Olympics as he did in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he could put on a show.
Michael Frolik, who like Krejci is a former Stanley Cup winner, and Vladimir Sobotka are other forwards who are familiar names to North American hockey fans.
The U.S. won’t have players with as much NHL experience as some of the other teams and that is likely why the team comes in with the sixth-best odds at +1500.
The team features 15 current NCAA players including Matty Beniers, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL draft who has 32 points in 26 games this seeaosn for Michigan. His Michigan teammate Brendan Brisson is another former first-round selection enjoying an outstanding season for the Wolverines. On defense a player to keep an eye on is Jake Sanderson, the No. 5 overall pick in 2020, who has 22 points in 19 games at North Dakota. Nathan Smith is the leading scorer in the NCAA.
The U.S. team also has some productive players out of the KHL on the roster including former Yale stars Brian O’Neill and Kenny Agostino who have 42 and 40 points in the KHL this season.
Strauss Mann, whose 1.77 goals-against average, is tops in the Swedish Hockey League, could be the No. 1 goalie.
Former New York Rangers head coach David Quinn will be the coach for the U.S. squad.
David Quinn is getting a second chance at the Olympics as the coach of the U.S. men’s hockey team in Beijing. It comes more than three decades since a blood disorder took away his chance to play for Team USA on sports’ biggest stage. https://t.co/PUZ0SwpqSW
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 25, 2022
The hockey begins on February 9 at the National Indoor Stadium and the Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing. The U.S. opens against China on February 10 while Canada plays Germany in its opener on that day.