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Which Penguins could be Olympians in 2022?

From behind the bench to on the ice, the Penguins should be well represented at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

HOCKEY: SEP 24 World Cup of Hockey - Semifinal - Team Russia v Team Canada Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the delayed 2020 Summer Olympic Games currently being contest in Tokyo, Japan, it seems fitting to take a look ahead to the 2022 Winter Olympics set to take place in Beijing, China in just a few short months. Specifically, focusing on the ice hockey competition which, as of now, is supposed to include NHL participation.

When the NHL released their 2021-22 schedule last week, an extended Olympic break was included in the month of February, but the NHL and IOC have yet to come to an agreement that will send NHL players in China. Back in July 2020, the NHL and NHLPA agreed to Olympic participation in the amended CBA, but there are still some details to be ironed out in the NHL is to send players.

Although there is no deal set in stone at the moment to guarantee NHL participation in next year’s games, it does seem to be trending strongly in that direction. So with that in mind, let’s break down which Pittsburgh Penguins players could be hopping on a place next winter and heading to China to represent their countries on an international stage.

Mike Sullivan

Team: United States of America

—Not a player, but right now the only sure thing when it comes to Penguins representation in Beijing. Mike Sullivan was named Team USA head coach on Wednesday to the surprise of basically no one. Sullivan was long rumored to be the top choice to lead Team USA and now it is official. By naming a current NHL coach as the Olympic coach it serves as perhaps a signal that NHL players will certainly be heading to China as well.

Sidney Crosby

Team: Canada

—It will be some time before team rosters are announced for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but assuming he remains healthy, Sidney Crosby will be there representing Canada and more than likely serving as team captain. This will Crosby’s third Olympics and very likely his last which is depressing to think about.

Evgeni Malkin

Team: Russia

—Malkin’s participation in Beijing all hinges on the health of his surgically repaired knee. We still don’t have any time frame for his return so until we do this will all remain speculation. If he’s healthy, it’s difficult to not see him getting the call and him accepting given the great pride he takes in representing Russia on this stage.

Kris Letang

Team: Canada

—If Letang hailed from just about any other nation on this planet it’s almost a guarantee he would be heading to the Olympics next year. Unfortunately, Letang is from Canada who is absolutely stacked on the blue line. Letang has a great style of play for an Olympic style tournament and international ice, but you’re likely to see Canada go with some younger options on the blue line.

Jake Guentzel

Team: United States of America

—There is a lot of young scoring talent in the USA Hockey system and Jake Guentzel is one of those players. While he might get overshadowed by the likes of Auston Matthews and Patrick Kane, Guentzel has earned the right to make this roster. Playing with Sidney Crosby certainly helps his case as he racks up points in Pittsburgh.

Bryan Rust

Team: United States of America

—It’s an outside shot for Rust but it’s a shot nonetheless. No one expected Chris Kunitz to make Team Canada in 2014 but now he has a gold medal hanging in his trophy shelf. What do Kunitz and Rust have in common? Playing alongside Sidney Crosby.

Kasperi Kapanen

Team: Finland

—I’ll admit, I’m not 100% up to date on all the big names coming out of Finland as it relates to hockey, but I feel Kapanen is probably one of the biggest at the moment and should find himself in Beijing. Finland’s roster will be comprised mostly of NHL players of which Kapanen should be one.

Dominik Simon

Team: Czech Republic

—Kind of the same boat as Kapanen with Finland. There will be some names you recognize and others you don’t. Hard to imagine the Czechs leave Simon and his NHL pedigree off the team for the Olympics.

Marcus Pettersson

Team: Sweden

—Sweden is loaded on defense so Pettersson is likely a longshot for an Olympic spot but crazier things have happened. His style of play isn’t suited for an Olympic style tournament but I’m sure he wouldn’t balk at the opportunity.

Teddy Blueger

Team: Latvia

—This is all dependent on Latvia qualifying for the 2022 Olympics which they will attempt to do late next month. Should they qualify, Blueger is almost guaranteed a spot on the roster, being one of only three active Latvians currently in the NHL.

There are a few other names on the Penguins roster you may have expected to see here, but their chances of being selected to their respective national teams seems slim at best. Players like Jason Zucker and John Marino are good, but the bodies in front of them seem too steep a hill to climb short of injuries.

Even so, whether all the players listed above are chosen or just a handful from the list, the Penguins are certain to be well represented when the puck drop next February for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.