Now that NHL players are officially allowed to play in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the Chicago Blackhawks may find themselves as well represented as any team come February.
Here’s a look at the Blackhawks who could participate in the 2014 Olympics:
Corey Crawford (Canada) Crawford created some traction for a place in the Olympics with his play throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. He had a 1.84 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage while helping the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup. Jonathan Toews was asked during the playoffs whether Crawford deserved to play in the Olympics, and Toews said, "The influence and the effect he’s had on our team all season and through this Cup run that we’ve had, I don’t see why there’s even a doubt if he should be considered when it comes to that. He’s proven he’s a pressure player. He’s got the talent and the ability and the mental game to go with it.” Other Canada goaltender candidates are Braden Holtby, Roberto Luongo, Carey Price and Mike Smith.
Niklas Hjalmarsson (Sweden) Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook may not be the only Blackhawks defensive pairing to play together in the Olympics. Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya could do the same for Sweden. Both players have been invited to Sweden’s Olympic training camp. Hjalmarsson played for Sweden in the 2012 World Championships. He had two goals, eight assists and a plus-15 rating for the Blackhawks in the regular season last season. He also had five assists and a plus-10 rating in the playoffs.
Marian Hossa (Slovakia) Hossa is the Olympic veteran among the Blackhawks. He will be making his fourth appearance in the Olympics. The sharp-shooting winger made his Olympic debut for Slovakia in 2002. He’s had 12 goals and 13 assists in 25 career Olympic games. Slovakia took fourth place in 2010. Hossa has dealt with some injuries over the past few seasons, but he’s been among the Blackhawks’ top players when healthy. He finished third on the team in points in the regular season and in the playoffs last season.
Patrick Kane (United States) Kane is expected to be one of the United States’ top players in the 2014 Olympics. He made his Olympic debut in 2010 and helped the United States to the silver medal by contributing three goals and two assists in six games. He’s proven to be a big-game player and continued to show that on his way to the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy with nine goals and 10 assists in last season’s playoffs.
Duncan Keith (Canada) Keith is expected to be a key defensive component for Canada again. He had made his first Olympic appearance in 2010 and had six assists and a plus-6 rating in seven games while helping Canada to the gold medal. He was among the NHL’s top defensemen again in the 2013 season.
Marcus Kruger (Sweden) Kruger has been invited to Sweden’s Olympic training camp. He hasn’t represented Sweden in the Olympics before, but he has played in two World Championships. He was a vital role player for the Blackhawks during the 2013 season while being utilized on the fourth line and penalty kill. Those valuable traits could earn himself a spot on Sweden’s roster as well.
Johnny Oduya (Sweden) Oduya, who was invited to Sweden’s training camp, is looking to be selected to his second Olympics. He had a 0-plus/minus rating and 12 penalty minutes in four games for Sweden in the 2010 Olympics. He’s proven to be a consistent defenseman for the Blackhawks since arriving to the team in a trade in 2012. Last season, he had three goals, nine assists and a plus-12 rating in 48 regular-season games. He also contributed three goals and five assists in the playoffs.
Brent Seabrook (Canada) Seabrook was paired with his longtime friend and teammate Duncan Keith in the 2010 Olympics and could be destined for that same role in 2014. Seabrook had one assist and a plus-2 rating in 2010. He will probably be picked again for the Canadian side, but there is some uncertainty because of his rocky play during the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run. He did bounce back after being paired with Keith and closed out the playoffs on a high note.
Patrick Sharp (Canada) Sharp was considered for the Olympics in 2010, but he didn’t make the cut. He will likely be a borderline decision again in 2014. He has played twice for Canada in the World Championships and produced 11 points in 17 games. He’s been a consistent goal scorer for the Blackhawks throughout his career and has had six seasons of 20 or more goals. He led the Blackhawks with 10 goals in last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
Jonathan Toews (Canada) Toews is another lock for the Olympics. He made his Olympic debut in 2010 at the age of 21. He scored the first goal in Canada’s 3-2 overtime win over USA in the gold medal game. He finished with one goal and seven assists in seven games. He’s coming off one of his strongest NHL seasons and finished fourth in the voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy. His offensive production in the Stanley Cup playoffs this past season wasn’t to his liking, and he would certainly like to perform better on another large stage.