Ross D. Franklin/AP
Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 | 2 a.m.
Pete DeBoer is heading to the 2022 Winter Olympics as an assistant coach for the Team Canada men’s hockey team. And if things go according to plan, the Golden Knights coach won't be the only Vegas representation in Beijing.
Right now it’s unclear if NHL players are going to the Olympics. The players and owners negotiated participation in both 2022 and 2026 into the most recent collective bargaining agreement, and the league built a three-week break into the regular season schedule in anticipation of players going. But Covid protocols, as well as spikes in the delta variant and vaccination statuses worldwide could complicate that.
If players do go, though, the Golden Knights will be well represented. As many as 11 players could merit some sort of consideration, with as many as seven likely to be selected across four national teams.
Let’s take a look at which Golden Knights could attend, sorted by country.
The team DeBoer will be coaching also has the biggest potential for more Golden Knights to join him. Three Vegas skaters jump off the page: forward Mark Stone and defensemen Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo.
Pietrangelo is perhaps the most obvious. He’s represented Canada at two World Juniors, one World Championship, the 2016 World Cup and was on the 2014 Olympic team. Team Canada’s general manager is Doug Armstrong, Pietrangelo’s old general manager in St. Louis. Done deal.
Theodore has finished sixth in the Norris Trophy voting as the league’s top defensemen two years in a row. He has less experience internationally than others with one World Championship, one World Junior and one U-18 tournament, but will represent the next wave of Canadian defensemen along with players like Cale Makar alongside vets like Pietrangelo. Buy his ticket to Beijing now.
Stone too doesn’t have much experience, but he’s also done nothing but excel. In 26 games across a World Junior and two World Championships over the last decade, Stone has 20 goals and 34 points with the maple leaf on his chest. He’s one of the best defensive forwards in the world and is coming off the best offensive season of his career. No need to overthink this one, as he’ll make his Olympic debut with Theodore this winter.
The interesting name for the Golden Knights is left winger Jonathan Marchessault, who would make the Olympic team of just about every country but his homeland. His 225 points over the last four years with Vegas ranks just 18th among Canadians, but 45th among all players — that total would rank fourth among Swedes, sixth among Russians and 10th among Americans.
Marchessault is a victim of playing for the best hockey country on Earth, and with such talent, Selke-winning centers might be forced to the left wing. Maybe DeBoer pushes for a player he has generously complimented, but Marchessault is likely on the outside looking in.
While the Golden Knights don’t boast the level of American talent they do Canadian, one name pops up for the red, white and blue, and that’s one of the league’s most dangerous scorers.
Max Pacioretty was on both the 2014 Olympic and 2016 World Cup teams, and has arguably raised his profile since then. He was fifth among Americans in goals last season and in the last two seasons only Auston Matthews and Kyle Connor have more than Pacioretty’s 56 NHL goals — more, even on a per-game basis, than players like Patrick Kane or Jack Eichel.
While Pacioretty feels like a lock, the timing of Alex Tuch’s injury might prevent him from consideration. If healthy, he’d be an intriguing option at the wings as an ascendant 25-year-old with speed and a scorer’s touch. But his offseason shoulder surgery is expected to keep him sidelined until just about when the Olympics start, in February, and it’s hard to see Team USA wanting to take a player they don’t know is healthy or the Golden Knights releasing him for international duty.
The only other American with big minutes on the Golden Knights is Alec Martinez, who is a long shot. The strength of Team USA might be on its blue line and while Martinez had a terrific season, he’s only represented his country twice in his career, at the World Championships in 2018 and 2019.
The Golden Knights have two players who are likely to don the gorgeous yellow and blue sweaters of Sweden in February.
First is William Karlsson. Over the past four years he ranks third among Swedes in goals (96) and fourth in points (219). Now many of those come from his 2017-18 season, and he dips to seventh in points and ninth in goals over the last three seasons instead of four. But he’s a terrific two-way center, and while Sweden has produced tremendous centers like Mika Zibanejad, Nicklas Backstrom, Elias Pettersson and Elias Lindholm, there’s always room for a player like Karlsson.
The other is Robin Lehner. A few years ago Lehner might not have been on many Olympic radars, but he’s posted elite numbers over the last three years, leading all Swedes with a .923 save percentage and coming in second with 57 victories. Lehner and Jacob Markstrom appear headed for battle for the starter’s net, but it’s hard to find another goalie who can supplant either one of those as the two who dress in games.
The third player has a longer shot to make the team, but said this offseason it’s his personal goal. Mattias Janmark played for Sweden at the 2018 World Championship and picked up a point per game, but has never been thought of as one of the country’s elite. He ranked just 22nd in points among Swedish NHL players last year and has never registered more than half a point per game over a season. He has defensive value and versatility, but unless he lights the world on fire to start next season, he’ll be hard-pressed to make a strong Swedish squad.
The Golden Knights’ biggest offseason addition, Evgenii Dadonov, has the chance to represent his country as well. Russia is stacked up front, particularly on the wings, where players like Alex Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin form a top-three that any country is challenged to match. Young players are also expected to play a big role, like Andrei Svechnikov, Pavel Buchnevich and Kirill Kaprizov ready to break through on a big stage.
A year ago, you could have etched Dadonov’s name in stone to this roster. But a poor showing last year with Ottawa coupled with an embarrassment of talent on the wing might be tough for the 32-year-old to play a starring role.
Dadonov historically is a mainstay with Team Russia, playing internationally on the U-18s more than a decade ago, two World Juniors, six World Championships and the 2016 World Cup. He missed out on the 2014 Olympic squad in his home country, but could make his debut for the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” in February.