Team Canada has been sending lineups filled with stars to the Olympics since the NHL started allowing their players to take part in 1998. They’ve brought gold back home on three occasions since then, doing so in 2002, 2010, and 2014.
The NHL pulled out in 2018, however, and did not allow players to participate in the Pyeongchang Games but, with NHL pros set to return at the next time of asking, the excitement is palpable. After all, the prospect of watching the likes of Connor McDavid and Sydney Crosby on Team Canada for the first time does beckon intrigue.
McDavid will be the main source of offense for the Canadian contingent at the Olympics. The Edmonton Oilers star leads the NHL’s top power play and is on course to post 171 points this season so it is expected that he will be the focal point of Team Canada’s first line. It remains to be seen as to who his linemates will be but one would expect that two of his Oilers teammates could form the attack.
The Oilers may very well be sending their whole power play to Beijing.
Back in 2010, Team Canada had three players from the San Jose Sharks playing on the same line in Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley. The trio averaged a goal and assist per game as they helped Canada win gold. This speaks to the importance of chemistry. An Olympic tournament is never a long one and there’s every chance that players will fail to get in sync in the short space of time they have to prepare. You can never tell.
In the case of NHL teammates playing together in an Olympic line, success will always be a possibility.
McDavid has already shown he has great chemistry with two of his teammates – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman – which is why NHL expert picks will suggest bets on the Oilers for the Stanley Cup. The team is 11/1 to win it at the moment. The Colorado Avalanche are the favorites at 25/4 while the Tampa Bay Lightning are next up at 17/2. Most bettors have their money on the Florida Panthers, though. Florida is at 9/1, behind the Vegas Golden Knights at 7/1.
Nugent-Hopkins is a player who can do it all offensively. He can play at center and on the wing. He’s also been very effective in a line alongside McDavid and had his best season with 69 points in 82 games back in 2018/19. McDavid, meanwhile, scored 116 points in 78 games, the most he’s posted in a single campaign so far.
Both players look very likely to register their highest career point totals this season, with Nugent-Hopkins on course to score 104 points. Of course, some would argue that there are better players Team Canada could select but he does rank 13th in scoring in the league at the moment and is statistically one of the NHL’s better players.
Hyman, as mentioned above, is also playing on the same wavelength with McDavid. The 29-year-old joined the Oilers as a free agent during the offseason and has turned out to be a great fit playing on the captain’s wing when Leon Draisaitl isn’t in the lineup. The two shared an understanding from the jump, with Hyman taking perfectly to his role, which has been pretty simple – receive the puck, get it to McDavid and get back open.
That was exemplified against the Vegas Golden Knights back in October when Hyman drove the puck to the net before McDavid picked it up and passed it back to him while open for him to score.
Like McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins, Hyman is also on pace for his most productive term, having already notched 10 points in 11 games. His scoring isn’t the only factor, however. The player brings a lot to the team that does not necessarily show up on a stat sheet.
He always put in 100 percent effort and his grind is something the Oilers welcomed when they got him on their roster this year. He seems the perfect candidate to fulfill such a role in the Team Canada setup.
Edmonton has had the best power play in the league for the past two seasons and looks set to end this campaign in the same vein as they boast an efficiency rate of 47 percent, McDavid, Nugent-Hopkins, and Hyman would give Team Canada a trio that has been scoring nearly half of their power play opportunities.
Hyman is effective even when he doesn’t score as he’s been a remarkable net-front presence for the Oilers. He played a key role in the team’s 6-5 overtime comeback win against the New York Rangers earlier this month. It was his screen that assisted Tyson Barrie after McDavid hit a pass to him for the important goal. McDavid also scored a miracle goal in that game.
Should the Oilers maintain as effective a power play in the buildup to the Beijing Games, Doug Armstrong, the Team Canada GM, would do well to consider getting all three men on the roster as their chemistry has been proven – but even more so, their ability to produce.