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With the NHL retired, the Beijing Olympics will showcase the next generation of hockey – NBC Los Angeles


Disappointment at the NHL’s absence from the 2022 Winter Olympics quickly turned to excitement for a handful of US players at the World Junior Championships.

Matty Beniers, Jake Sanderson and Brock Faber were together in Red Deer, Alberta when USA Hockey’s John Vanbiesbrouck asked them to go to Beijing.

“I was kind of blown out of my shoes,” said Beniers.

All three said yes. While Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon won’t get a chance to play at their first Olympics, the men’s ice hockey tournament in Beijing could be a showcase for the next generation of talent, with 2021 top pick Owen Power , expected to represent Canada and Beniers, Sanderson and Faber among eight US players under the age of 21.

“NHL players won’t be there, but it’s still going to be pretty good hockey and it’s going to be really fun,” Sanderson said. “There will be really good talent there. I’m super excited to be playing Drew Commesso with Matty and Brock Faber (and goalkeeper).”

The precedent is there for the youngest players to be among the best at the Olympics.

When the NHL decided not to send players to Pyeongchang in 2018, it gave Russian sniper Kirill Kaprizov, Finnish defender Miro Heiskanen and winger Eeli Tolvanen, and American forwards Troy Terry, Ryan Donato and Jordan Greenway a chance to stand out. Kaprizov and Tolvanen were the second and third top scorers in the tournament, while Donato led USA in goals and Terry in assists.

While Russia, Finland and other European teams play with mostly older rosters from professional leagues, the US thinks the kids are okay: 15 of the team’s 25 players are currently in college, including 13 who already have were drafted into an NHL team.

Vanbiesbrouck said the young players will have an immediate impact on the team. Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson, who has broadcast five Olympics, reckons the next step is the NHL.

“You never know: you could be here next year or next year,” Davidson said. “This is a stage for them.”

In this full episode of the My New Favorite Olympian podcast, hosts Apolo Ohno and Ngozi Ekeledo hear from Abby Roque, Jim Roque, Chief Larry Roque, Ted Nolan and former Anishinabek Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Medahbee.

It’s also something of a do-over after World Juniors were canceled midway through virus concerns. That tournament was canceled about a week after the NHL withdrew from Beijing, so the missed opportunity became a greater motivation for Beniers, Sanderson, Faber and Commesso to commit to the Olympics.

“One door closes and another one opens,” said Beniers, who is expected to be the youngest player at the tournament. “Something that not many people can participate in.”

Participation in 2018 worked wonders for the likes of Terry, Greenway and Kaprizov. Terry leads the Anaheim Ducks in goals and points this season, while Kaprizov is a Greenway on the Wild teammate and leads Minnesota in goals.

While McDavid, MacKinnon and Matthews hailed Sidney Crosby’s golden goal at the Vancouver 2010 Games as the most memorable Olympic moment of their childhood, this time around many of the young US players look to TJ Oshie’s penalty shootout in Sochi as the iconic highlight. For 20-year-old Brendan Brisson, the performances of Terry, Greenway and Donato in PyeongChang stand out above all because they helped US management trust college players.

“Last time I loved going to the US and seeing these college guys succeed,” Brisson said. “They led with goals and assists and played a really big role in their team, so we have to work towards that and maybe we can be like that in Beijing.”

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will be here before we know it. Find everything you need to know about the Olympic events, COVID-19 protocols, a Super Bowl overlap and more.

That’s possible because coach David Quinn is certainly not going to bury young players at the back of the bench or scrape them from important games. Beniers, Brisson and Sanderson could be among the leading Americans in the Ice Age at the Olympics before heading back to college and soon to be pros.

“The great thing is that these guys are experienced players with a toughness in their game who are committed to playing in all three zones,” Quinn said. “And that’s why they were drafted where they were. That’s why they’re going to be big parts of our team, and that’s why they have a great future in the NHL.”


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