What Would the NHL Remaining out of the Olympics Mean? Canada Edition

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

While nothing has been decided between Gary Bettman and Rene Fassel, the NHL has said it could make a decision regarding the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang as soon as within six months. Where does this leave various countries who are traditional hockey powerhouses?

Of course, some countries would be theoretically hit harder than others- Canada and the USA, for instance, have their rosters drawn entirely from the NHL, and a few European countries have a majority of their best players in the NHL. This would leave Olympic hockey for a few countries in a state similar to the amateur only era. This series will cover the effect the NHL pulling out would have on various countries. Bigger countries with a larger NHL presence will merit their own articles, and smaller hockey countries like Norway and Latvia will combined in a single final article.

I'll also draw up a hypothetical roster for each country using Bruce Peter's KHLE (to normalize scoring across the various leagues players would come from) as though it happened this year instead of 2018 to give you an idea of where players would come from.

Canada

While it's unclear whether the AHL would follow the suit of it's big sibling, I'll operate on the premise that they won't- it's more fun that way. That said, GMs are notoriously conservative about star and potential star players playing elsewhere, so any top end prospects in the AHL would likely be given a firm "Nope" by the parent club, whereas players like Colton Sceviour (a 25 year old with 55 points in 46 games for the Texas Stars) would almost certainly be given permission to head to South Korea for the Olympics.

The real question is will the heads at Hockey Canada take a chance on any CHL players? I think they'd take one or two depending on who's available (given the hypothetical of this scenario, I could maybe see Ekblad going or Sidney Crosby when he was in his draft year, but otherwise no). And if the AHL follows the suit of big brother and holds out, does Hockey Canada reach into ECHL and college hockey over major junior players? There's also a few players who end up overseas, where leagues will certainly continue to allow players to play in the OIympics.

Forwards:

Age Name POS League GP G A P P/GP KHLE P/GP
24 Mike Hoffman W AHL 48 27 36 63 1.31 1.04
24 Colton Sceviour W AHL 46 30 25 55 1.20 0.94
28 Nigel Dawes W KHL 50 25 22 47 0.94 0.94
29 Kyle Wilson C KHL 49 17 27 44 0.90 0.90
25 Spencer Abbott W AHL 47 12 41 53 1.13 0.89
26 Ben Street C AHL 37 20 20 40 1.08 0.85
24 Zach Boychuk W AHL 42 22 20 42 1.00 0.79
27 Dustin Boyd C KHL 47 18 19 37 0.79 0.79
24 Chris Terry W AHL 43 16 26 42 0.98 0.77
30 Pascal Pelletier W AHL 43 10 31 41 0.95 0.75
28 Nick Johnson W AHL 40 17 21 38 0.95 0.75
23 Jason Akeson W AHL 50 18 29 47 0.94 0.74
27 Wojtek Wolski W KHL 50 18 18 36 0.72 0.72
21 Max Reinhart C AHL 45 12 28 40 0.89 0.70
28 Geoff Platt C KHL 52 18 17 35 0.67 0.67

A few notes here: using the AHL, SHL, KHL, and SM-Liiga, Ryan Strome had the best KHLE of over a point per game. That said, I didn't include him given his value to the Islanders organization. If teams don't want their NHL guys going to the Olympics, I doubt they'll want their high value prospects they have control over going either. Luke Adam's another guy I figured his team will hold out.

For reference, here's the KHLE of some of the top forwards of this draft as well as Crosby in his draft year.

Player KHLE
Sam Bennett 0.77
Leon Draisaitl 0.69
Sam Reinhart 0.83
Sidney Crosby 1.16

While Bennett, Draisaitl, and Reinhart all have pretty good KHLE values relative to the rest of the team, they're not so good that I'd bet risk averse Hockey Canada would put 17 and 18 year old kids on international ice against grown men. Crosby at that age though? I don't think even Hockey Canada could overlook that. Of course you'd have to take 18 year old Chris Kunitz as well with his KHLE of 0.47.

Defense:

Age Name POS League GP G A P P/GP KHLE P/GP
33 Chris Lee D KHL 43 12 19 31 0.72 0.72
22 Brayden McNabb D AHL 31 6 19 25 0.81 0.64
28 Shaun Heshka D KHL 50 8 22 30 0.60 0.60
21 Brenden Kichton D AHL 51 9 29 38 0.75 0.59
25 Brad Hunt D AHL 42 6 23 29 0.69 0.55
22 Nick Deslauriers D AHL 55 17 19 36 0.66 0.52
35 Cory Murphy D SHL 47 13 18 31 0.66 0.50
27 Kyle Cumiskey D SHL 39 4 21 25 0.64 0.49

Notes: I tried to use TOI in conjunction with the KHLE that I used for forwards, but of course the AHL is as backwards as hell and doesn't have TOI available. Woo.

Aaron Ekblad wasn't far off the pace with a KHLE of 0.44, and I was tempted to add him since we all know how much Hockey Canada looooooves young defenseman- even ones who've proven themselves by winning a Norris trophy.

I nudged Cumiskey up a couple spots over guys with slightly higher KHLE's from the KHL and AHL (Taylor Fedun and Mat Robinson) given his greater experience at a higher level.

Brandon Gormley was basically dropped for the same reason Ryan Strome was- I don't see an NHL team not sending its players sending a top prospect instead, though I bet PHX would be more open to the idea than NYI.

Goalies:

Age Name POS GP GAA SV% W L SO TIME
34 Curtis Sanford G 37 1.8 0.939 15 17 7 2038
32 Mike Leighton G 39 1.76 0.932 19 14 5 2318
30 Drew MacIntyre G 38 2.44 0.919 22 13 1 2262

Notes: Sanford and Leighton are both fairly dominant in the KHL and I figured MacIntyre from the AHL would be the third choice, as I have trouble seeing Hockey Canada putting all their eggs in the KHL basket.

Barry Brust was up there- he's actually got a higher SV% than Leighton, but Leighton has more experience at higher levels than ol' Brusty. Personally I'd go with Brust over MacIntyre and see how some of the early games shake out, but I'm roleplaying as Hockey Canada, not Hockey CanArik.

So there you largely have the team I'd expect to play for Canada if the NHL had stayed out of the Olympics this year. It could probably be better but for the classic risk aversion of Yzerman et al and my assumption that a lot of GMs wouldn't want their blue chip prospects playing overseas if NHL players aren't playing there.

Final totals for each league are 15 from the AHL, 9 from the KHL, and 2 from the SHL.

Next up: Sweden. Or America.

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