While for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy it would, to put it bluntly, suck, it could open up the door for some prospects to attend the Olympics.
While the NHL has made it clear it does not want the players to attend, Commissioner Gary Bettman has left the decision up to the players and it’s looking more and more like the players will choose to opt out. That will leave the Ice Hockey Federations of the participating countries scrambling for a plan-B.
Russia will be the least affected as they will dig into their KHL pool. Sweden will be affected a little more but they can also look at SHL players to fill voids. And Finland has Liiga to look for talent.
So, what about your Bruins prospects?
Peter Cehlarik is playing in the KHL is an option for Czechia. Linus Arnesson is playing in the SHL and could be an option for Sweden. Matias Mantykivi in playing in Liiga and could be there for Finland. Roman Bychkov in also in the KHL and could be an option for Russia but very unlikely. Of the four, Cehlarik has the best opportunity.
The two Federations that will need to put in the most work are USA Hockey and Hockey Canada who will likely look at College players and professionals playing overseas. Junior leagues like the USHL and CHL could be an option, although it’s doubtful the CHL would be a willing participant seeing as they are already supplying players to the World Juniors and have their own COVID issues in some parts of Canada.
But let’s consider all the options anyway.
Fabian Lysell would be the most likely choice when it comes to Bruins prospects, that is, if Sweden wanted him. However, Lysell is under contract with the Bruins and a member of the NHLPA, so it is unclear at this time whether he would need permission or whether the Bruins could simply “loan” him to the Olympic team.
For Hockey Canada, they have two choices: Brett Harrison of the Oshawa Generals (CHL) and Dustyn McFaul of the Clarkson Golden Knights (NCAA). Let’s be honest here though. Harrison is just 18 years old and didn’t make Team Canada’s entry into the WJC as an “under ager” so if Hockey Canada uses junior players, he appears to be out of the equation. And in McFaul’s case, they could find 8 defencemen that are “better today” even without using the junior circuit.
Where it really gets interesting for Bruins prospects is with USA Hockey. On defence, Ryan Mast of the Sarnia Sting (CHL) and Mason Langenbrunner of the Fargo Force (USHL) and Ty Gallagher of the Boston University Terriers (NCAA) appear to have no chance as like McFaul, USA Hockey can find better options. Where it gets interesting is with Mason Lohrei of the Ohio State Buckeyes (NCAA). USA Hockey have some excellent defencemen to choose from, but Lohrei’s ability to move the puck, create offense and quarterback the powerplay would give him some consideration. He’s not a guarantee, but could get a long look.
Up front, I think Trevor Kuntar of the Boston College Eagles (NCAA) will at least have his name mentioned. His all-around game and a little bit of offense he can provide may entice some with USA Hockey. But the one that intrigues me the most, at least in what USA Hockey will do is John Beecher. A two-time WJC member – although the second time came to an end before hitting the ice because of COVID gives him experience. Although off to a poor start offensively with the Michigan Wolverines (NCAA), his skating, his tenacity to get in on the forecheck and his ever-improving defensive game could get him a look as a fourth line pivot.
I don’t know which way this will go.
All we can do is wait.