In early April, everyone's favorite commissioner Gary Bettman announced the National Hockey League (NHL) would not be going to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. Instead of watching Connor McDavid play in his first Olympics, we'll likely get to see recent NHL castoffs playing in Europe representing their country - move over Crosby, here comes Cory Murphy. Aside from Russia, who might ice a team full of NHLers - and top KHLers - if Vladimir Putin has his way, teams will consist of minor leaguers, players currently playing in Europe, and maybe you, the reader, if you get yourself into playing shape by next year.
Some believe there's an outside shot the NHL could change its decision in due time, but it appears unlikely. And, given the league's insistence to promote the World Cup of Hockey, there's a very strong chance that some of its brightest stars will never be able to add an Olympic medal to their resume. Some players have expressed frustration at the decision, while one in particular has stated he's going anyway. Are there others that will follow suit? Who might and who won't for certain play in South Korea in 2018? Will young stars like Patrik Laine and Connor McDavid wait and hope for participation in 2022? Consequently, will aging veterans jump at one last chance to represent their country on the highest stage?
15 Will: Alex Ovechkin
A day after the league announced it would not be participating in the 2018 Olympics, The Great 8 didn't mince words when he was asked if he would still play for Russia. "I didn't change my mind, and I won't. It's my country. I think everybody wants to play there. It's the biggest opportunity in your life to play in the Olympic Games. So, I don't know, somebody (is) going to tell me, 'Don't go.' I don't care, I just go."
14 Won't: Sidney Crosby
As cool as it would be to see Sidney Crosby take a stand against the NHL and go to South Korea, there's absolutely no chance that happens. No. 87 has been a poster boy for the league since he and Ovechkin broke in together following the 2004 lockout. He has made the league millions of dollars in merchandise and advertising, and if anyone is owed the opportunity to go it should be Crosby, but he has more integrity than that.
13 Will: Vladimir Tarasenko
You might think it's a joke, but it's a very real possibility that Putin spends valuable resources on ensuring Russia wins an Olympic gold medal in hockey. It's not as if Russia is known for its incredible displays of sportsmanship and strict adherence to rules; most of its athletes were banned from the 2016 Summer Games and Paralympics in Rio because of a doping scandal.
12 Won't: Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has already accomplished enough at the international level, including a World Junior Championship and a gold medal at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where he allowed just three goals in five games for a dominant Canadian team. Price posted a shutout in both the team's semi-final win over the United States and its gold-medal win over Sweden.
11 Will: Ryan Miller
If there's a dark horse goalie candidate to represent his country it's Ryan Miller. The American will be 37-years-old by the time the Olympics come around next season and it'll certainly be his last chance at representing his country at that level. Miller was the backup for the United States in Sochi and was in the nets in 2010 when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal for Canada - we're betting Miller still hears "IGGY" in his nightmares.
10 Won't: Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid is like Sidney Crosby in every which way, so it shouldn't be surprising that No. 97 won't go to the Olympics. To begin with, as a third-year player, he doesn't exactly have the clout to disobey the league and, ultimately, his team. Secondly, the Oilers wouldn't allow him. If he were to go and suffer an injury, all hell would break loose in Edmonton.
9 Will: Sergei Bobrovsky
Russia is going to need a goaltender too, right? Sure, there's probably some capable netminders in the KHL, but to really secure a gold medal it's going to take one of the world's best, even if other countries are icing their 'B,' 'C,' and 'D' teams. There's no better Russian goaltender in the NHL than Sergei Bobrovsky; in fact, there might be no better goaltender period than Bobrovsky, who, at this point, appears to be a lock for the 2016-17 Vezina Trophy.
8 Won't: Auston Matthews
If Connor McDavid isn't going you can bet Auston Matthews won't. Though it'd be great to see both players showcase their skill for their respective countries at the Olympics, Matthews is even more apt than McDavid to say and do the right thing. As a second-year player next year playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, an organization now more disciplined and structured than any other (players aren't even allowed to grow beards in the season), there's no chance Matthews gets the green light from higher-ups to play for the United States.
7 Will: Patrik Laine
This might be wishful thinking, as we'd love one young megastar to spurn the NHL and live out his childhood dream, but there's at least a slight possibility Patrik Laine plays in the 2018 Olympics, especially depending on where his Winnipeg Jets sit at that time of the year.
6 Won't: Nicklas Backstrom
Nicklas Backstrom is one of the most underrated players in the league, and perhaps even in contention for best player in the league. On any given night, he can change the outcome of a game with his superior playmaking skills; the problem is, he plays on a team with Alex Ovechkin, who receives the bulk of the credit. Backstrom, in a sense, plays second fiddle to Ovie.
5 Will: Alex Radulov
As of right now, Alexander Radulov isn't signed to an NHL contract beyond this season. The former Nashville Predators draft pick is a dynamic offensive player and proved as much after coming back to the NHL to sign with the Montreal Canadiens this season.
4 Won't: Drew Doughty
Like some of the Canadians above, Drew Doughty has accomplished enough at the Olympics. The Los Angeles Kings defenseman has two gold medals, despite still being in his 20s, and was one of Canada's best defenseman in both tournaments. He simply has nothing to gain at that level and it appears unlikely that any other Canadians will make the leap.
3 Will: Andrei Markov
Andrei Markov has a number of factors working in his favor in regard to attending the 2018 Olympics. Most importantly, he's from Russia, but secondly, he'll be 39-years-old by then and likely playing his final season in the league. In fact, Markov, who's three-year, $17.25 million contract expires at the end of this season, may already be playing in Russia by next season.
2 Won't: Jaromir Jagr
Given his age, you might think Jaromir Jagr would be one player that's a strong candidate to play in South Korea. There's no reports yet as to whether or not the Florida Panthers want to bring him back next season, but the 45-year-old is still a productive NHL player, having recorded 46 points this past season.
1 Will: Jarome Iginla
This is a pure hunch, but it could be possible depending on where - and if - Jarome Iginla plays next season. The future Hall of Famer will be 40-years-old during the 2018 Olympics, and while it's possible he signs a one-year contract with a team looking for experience, his production has diminished drastically in recent seasons as has his foot speed.
There hasn't been any whispers of retirement, but it's a very real possibility for Iginla. Even if he wants to return at the league minimum, he might not find very many suitors. His best bet is retire and make himself available for another run at an Olympic gold medal. If that doesn't happen, Canadians should keep an eye out for "Captain Canada" Ryan Smyth, who, despite being retired, is currently playing semi-professional hockey in his home province of Alberta.
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