The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are just a few months away, and big-name NHL stars are now being selected to represent their countries in China. Listed below are all the NHL players selected to their home country's respective national team.
However, note that while these players have been selected to compete in Beijing, it is no guarantee that they will make the trip overseas as injuries or illness (particularly COVID-19) could play a significant factor in the formation of each squad.
Auston Matthews: It should come as no surprise that Matthews is in position to make his Olympic debut in Beijing. At just 24 years old, Matthews is already regarded as one of the most dangerous scorers in the NHL. He led the league with 41 goals during the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign, earning him the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer. Matthews is in the middle of his age-related prime, and, amazingly, it's possible he's still yet to reach his ceiling.
Patrick Kane: Kane's still got it. At 32 years old, the Buffalo native remains one of the top offensive point producers in hockey. Despite recording a career-low 15 goals last season — thanks largely to the NHL's shortened season — he still averaged well over a point per game with 51 assists on the year. The three-time Stanley Cup champion and nine-time NHL All-Star is likely to play on Team USA's top line alongside Matthews if he ends up making the trip to Beijing.
Seth Jones: Not long ago, Jones was regarded as a candidate for the James Norris Memorial Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman. The 27-year-old took a step back in 2020-21 on a bad Columbus Blue Jackets team, but was traded to Kane's Chicago Blackhawks during the offseason, where he has the potential to flourish. Even in a down year, though, Jones still averaged half a point per game with five goals and 23 assists on the campaign. On a U.S. team loaded with talent, Jones could regain his status as one of the top blueliners in hockey.
Connor McDavid: At 24 years old, McDavid has already established himself as the best hockey player on the planet. The Edmonton Oilers captain has been playing at a level rarely seen in the NHL since his rookie campaign, but his performance during the 2020-21 season was nothing short of astonishing. In just 56 games, McDavid logged a ridiculous 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) en route to winning the Hart Memorial Trophy for the second time in his already illustrious career. McDavid is a hockey phenom, and he'll have a chance to add to his legacy with a strong showing in Beijing.
Sidney Crosby: Years before McDavid's emergence, it was Crosby who was widely considered the top hockey player in the world. The longtime Pittsburgh Penguins captain has done it all — he's a three-time Stanley Cup champion and an eight-time NHL All-Star, and he's also won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy two times apiece. Oh, and he's a two-time Olympic gold medalist as well. Barring an injury (which Crosby has been prone to throughout his career), he'll be looking to add a third gold medal to his Olympic resume this February.
Alex Pietrangelo: There aren't many Canadian defensemen better than Pietrangelo right now, if any. Not long after leading the St. Louis Blues to their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history, Pietrangelo took his talents to The Strip in Las Vegas and continues to play at a high level. Pietrangelo is no spring chicken at 31 years old (he turns 32 just before the start of the Olympics), but he remains one of hockey's top two-way defensemen and is likely to serve as one of the Canadians' first-pair rearguards.
Russian Olympic Committee
Alex Ovechkin: Despite Wayne Gretzky holding the NHL record for goals scored, it's Ovechkin who's widely considered the greatest goal scorer of all time. Even at 36 years old, the Moscow native continues to score goals at a blistering pace. He found twine 24 times in 2020-21, and had the NHL season not been shortened due to the pandemic, he likely would have logged his 12th (!) 40-plus-goal campaign since entering the league in 2005. While Ovechkin has accomplished just about everything one can ask for at this stage in his career, he's still never won an Olympic medal despite competing in the Games three times. Set to be a staple on the wing for the ROC, this may finally be the year Ovechkin gets to take home some Olympic hardware.
Nikita Kucherov: Kucherov is one of the most dynamic offensive players in hockey, and the thought of him playing on a line with Ovechkin is the stuff of nightmares for goaltenders everywhere. At 28 years old, Kucherov has already won the Stanley Cup two times and is just a couple years removed from setting a single-season record for points scored by a Russian-born player (128) during the 2018-19 season. This will be Kucherov's first-ever appearance at an Olympics, though he's no stranger to competing internationally for Russia as he's already earned a pair of bronze medals at the Ice Hockey World Championships.
Andrei Vasilevskiy: At this point, it's hard to deny that Vasilevskiy is the best goalie in the world. The 27-year-old won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie in 2019 and won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his stellar performance throughout last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs. Without Vasilevskiy, the Tampa Bay Lightning probably aren't defending their Stanley Cup crown for the second season in a row.
Aleksander Barkov: Barkov has long been considered one of the NHL's most underrated players, but the Florida Panthers captain is finally starting to get the recognition he deserves. The 26-year-old won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL's best two-way forward last season, and with the Panthers boasting one of the most lethal offensive attacks in the NHL, it's easy to see why Barkov's all-around game has become so valuable. Barkov competed for the Finns at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, helping his countrymen take down the United States to win bronze. Finland has come tantalizingly close to competing for gold in recent Olympics, and perhaps Barkov's presence will help the push the country over the hill for a chance to win its first-ever Olympic hockey title.
Sebastian Aho: Speaking of premier centers, Aho is quickly becoming one of the most dynamic forwards in hockey. Fresh off a 2020-21 season in which he averaged over a point per game, Aho is likely to play a huge role for Finland as he makes his Olympic debut. He isn't unfamiliar with representing Finland in international competition, though, as he helped his country win a silver medal at the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2016.
Mikko Rantanen: Expected to line up alongside Barkov or Aho on Finland's top six is Rantanen, who is no stranger to playing with a top-tier centerman. Flanking Nathan MacKinnon on the Colorado Avalanche's top line, Rantanen has developed into one of hockey's top offensive producers as he averages close to a point per game through 333 NHL appearances. This will be Rantanen's first time competing at an Olympics, but like Aho, he did help the Finns win silver at the 2016 World Championships.
Gabriel Landeskog: It's hard to believe Landeskog will only be 29 years old by the time the Beijing Olympics begins. Landeskog made his NHL debut in 2011 and has been the Avalanche's captain since 2012 when he was briefly the youngest captain in NHL history. He's had a hugely successful NHL career to this point with 512 points in 687 games, though he is still on a mission to win the elusive Stanley Cup. Internationally, Landeskog came close to winning a gold medal in Sochi, but he and the Swedes fell to Canada in the title game.
Mika Zibanejad: Zibanejad hasn't competed internationally since he helped Sweden win gold at the World Championships in 2018. Recently, however, he's become the heartbeat of the New York Rangers. Zibanejad put together the best statistical campaign of his career just two years ago, logging an insane 41 goals and 75 points in just 57 games.
Victor Hedman: Hedman seems to be in the conversation for the James Norris Memorial Trophy just about every year. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is arguably the NHL's most complete defensemen, and his game has not dropped off at all despite that he's exited his age-related prime. The two-time Stanley Cup champ has never competed in an Olympics, but did help Sweden win a gold medal in 2017 at the World Championships, along with a bronze back in 2010.
David Pastrnak: Few players in the world are capable of taking over a hockey game the way Pastrnak can. Nicknamed "Pasta" for short, the 25-year-old winger possesses one of the deadliest shots in the NHL. During the 2019-20 season, Pastrnak was on pace to hit the 50-goal mark until the COVID-19 pandemic ended his potentially historic campaign prematurely. Pastrnak has never competed in the Olympics, but has competed for the Czechs at the World Championships several times.
Jakub Voracek: If Pastrnak is going to be the Czech's sharpshooter, he'll need a strong puck distributor to get the puck to him. Voracek fits that bill. The 32-year-old's best days are likely behind him, but Voracek remains an extremely efficient playmaker, especially on the power play. After all, it wasn't long ago that Voracek posted 35 power-play points and averaged over a point per game as a member of the 2017-18 Philadelphia Flyers. Assuming he still has some good hockey left in him, a power play featuring Voracek and Pastrnak has the potential to be game-breaking in Beijing.
Ondrej Palat: Another member of the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Lightning, Palat is likely to be a key component on the Czech squad in Beijing. Palat made the trip to Sochi in 2014 and also competed for the Czechs at the 2019 World Championships. The 30-year-old is coming off yet another strong season in the NHL, having logged 46 points in 55 games in 2020-21.
Roman Josi: No Swiss player in NHL history has scored more points than Roman Josi. And no Swiss defenseman not named Roman Josi has ever won the James Norris Memorial Trophy. Josi is not only one of the best defensemen in hockey, but the unquestioned best Swiss player to ever play in the NHL. The 31-year-old is a regular in Switzerland's lineup during international competition, having competed in eight World Championships for his home country. He also competed for Switzerland in Sochi, though he and his countrymen were unable to bring an Olympic medal home with them.
Nico Hischier: Hischier is the only Swiss player to ever be selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft, and while injuries have hindered him throughout the early portion of his career, he's still one of the better up-and-coming centers in hockey. The New Jersey Devils captain missed a significant chunk of the 2020-21 season nursing a sinus fracture and foot injury, but after competing at this past summer's World Championships, he is expected to be completely healthy for the start of the 2021-22 season and is on track to play a key role for Switzerland in Beijing.
Timo Meier: The San Jose Sharks' fall from grace has been difficult to watch, but at least Meier has cemented himself as a key cog in the team's top six. The 25-year-old is no Ovechkin, but he sure knows how to find the back of the net. After all, he's only a couple years removed from an impressive 30-goal campaign in 2018-19. The Swiss probably won't be favored to win a medal in Beijing, but Meier is more than capable of making his team a difficult adversary.
Leon Draisaitl: Germany isn't known for pumping out top-level NHL talent, but that's changing quickly, and Draisaitl is a prime example of it. A case could be made that Draisaitl is the top player in the world not named Connor McDavid. The Cologne native is not only one of the NHL's top goal scorers — he scored 31 in just 56 games last season — but he's an expert playmaker as well. Does McDavid being his teammate inflate his stats? Perhaps. But Draisaitl's Hart Memorial Trophy, Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award don't seem to care. Draisaitl is already the best German player in NHL history, and his career is really just getting started.
Moritz Seider: Seider is just beginning his NHL career as a rearguard for the Detroit Red Wings. The 20-year-old was selected sixth overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and figures to be a key cog on the Red Wings' back end for years to come. He has already represented Germany in two World Championships and should play a big role for the Germans in Beijing.
Philipp Grubauer: If there's one area where the Germans don't lack, it's in the goaltending department. Grubauer is fresh off an outstanding season with the Avalanche, posting a 30-9-1 record while logging an impressive 1.95 goals against average and .922 save percentage. The soon-to-be 30-year-old is now serving as the backstop of the first-year Seattle Kraken, and he's being counted on to make some big stops as the NHL's newest team finds its footing. Grubauer has competed in two World Championships for Germany, though they were unable to win a medal in either appearance.
Nikolaj Ehlers: Like Germany, Denmark is pretty far from being a hockey hotbed. Still, it's produced one of the game's bigger stars in Ehlers. The 25-year-old is in the middle of his prime and coming off his best season in the NHL, averaging just under a point per game for the Winnipeg Jets in 2020-21. Ehlers' performance during the qualification tournament for Beijing was admirable as he averaged three (!) points per game, helping propel the Danish to their first-ever Olympic berth for men's hockey.
Oliver Bjorkstrand: Bjorkstrand isn't a hockey superstar, but he's a very talented player finally coming into his own. The 26-year-old posted a team-leading 44 points in 56 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season, and his role is only getting bigger. Bjorkstrand figures to be a key component on the wing for Denmark.
Alexander True: True has yet to carve out a significant role in the NHL, but the 2021-22 season could give him his best shot yet as he looks to make an impact for the Kraken. True has represented Denmark in three World Junior Championships and one World Championship thus far in his international career.
Andrej Sekera: Sekera is no household name, but he's put together a very respectable NHL career over the last 16 years. He played a key role on the Dallas Stars' back end during their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020. Sekera competes internationally often and will be making his third Olympic appearance in Beijing.
Erik Cernak: Cernak isn't the type of player who will light up the scoreboard, but he's become an important piece on the Lightning's roster in recent years. The two-time Stanley Cup champ will be making his Olympic debut.
Jaroslav Halak: Another Olympics, another Halak appearance. Halak has represented Slovakia in two of the last three Winter Olympics (he did not compete in PyeongChang as NHL players were prohibited from competing) and has still yet to win a medal. Perhaps this will be the Olympics the 36-year-old netminder finally earns his hardware.
Zemgus Girgensons: They sure do love Girgensons in Latvia. If it weren't for his fans in his home country, Girgensons probably wouldn't have been voted to his one and only NHL All-Star appearance in 2015. Selected at No. 14 overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Girgensons is the highest-drafted Latvian player in NHL history. The longtime Buffalo Sabres forward isn't known for his offensive prowess, but he's a solid checking-line forward with a 15-goal season under his belt. He missed the entire 2020-21 season due to a hamstring injury, but is expected to be fully healthy for the 2021-22 season.
Rudolfs Balcers: Balcers is still finding his footing as a regular in the NHL, but the 24-year-old is likely to play a big role for Latvia at the Olympics. Selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Balcers is coming off the best statistical campaign of his career in his first season with the Sharks, having scored eight goals and 17 points in 41 games.