Power Rankings: Players who are victims of Olympics gamesmanship

By
Updated: December 7, 2017

8:59 AM ET

Olympic hockey is on everyone’s mind this week, what with the Russia drama, which means many fans are crying into an entirely new bucket of tears over the fact that the NHL isn’t participating in the 2018 Winter Games.

For this week’s Power Rankings — voted on, as always, by ESPN’s panel of experts — we focus on one player from each team whom we truly, deeply lament will not be taking part in the men’s hockey tournament in South Korea. Many because they haven’t gotten the chance before. Others because we’ve never had the chance to see them with gold around their necks.

How we rank: We use a panel of voters, and these rankings reflect which teams voters think would win head-to-head matchups. Higher-ranked teams are favored over lower-ranked teams. A run of wins doesn’t guarantee a jump, and a couple of losses doesn’t guarantee a fall.

Previous rankings: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8

1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Record: 19-6-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 1

Steven Stamkos. Sigh. He was a snub in 2010, and then his broken leg kept him out in 2014, with Team Canada winning gold in both. He’ll still be young enough in 2022 to participate if the NHL goes to Beijing as expected. But as Stamkos knows, there are no guarantees.

2. Nashville Predators

Record: 18-7-3
Week 7 Ranking: No. 6

Filip Forsberg. The 23-year-old forward was too young to make the squad for Team Sweden in Sochi in 2014, but his point-per-game season — as well as the aging out of other Swedish forwards — would have earned him a top role in the upcoming Olympics, which would have afforded him a platform for a star-making performance.

3. Winnipeg Jets

Record: 17-7-4
Week 7 Ranking: No. 2

Patrik Laine. This has not been an outstanding season for the 19-year-old sniper so far, although he appears to be heating up now. But Laine loves the big stage: In 54 international tournament games, he has 49 goals. That includes seven goals in 10 world championship games. He would have rocked Pyeongchang.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs

Record: 18-10-1
Week 7 Ranking: No. 4

Auston Matthews. So let’s get this straight: The Americans finally have a generational talent and a game-dominating scorer who can match any other star in the world, and suddenly the NHL isn’t going to the Olympics? We don’t traffic much in Canadian conspiracy theories here, but …

5. St. Louis Blues

Record: 18-8-2
Week 7 Ranking: No. 3

Vladimir Tarasenko. The Tank rolled through Sochi for five games but only picked up an assist. He has not exactly been a standout internationally, with four goals in 14 games, but he’s a better player now than he was four years ago.

6. Los Angeles Kings

Record: 18-8-3
Week 7 Ranking: No. 10

Anze Kopitar. The Kings star only had three points in five games during the Sochi Games, but was the leader of a Slovenia team that shocked Slovakia and was competitive in pool play. Let’s hope they wear these sweet jerseys again.

7. New Jersey Devils

Record: 16-7-4
Week 7 Ranking: No. 8

Nico Hischier. The Swiss are always an interesting team to watch in the Olympics, what with their propensity for upsets. Hischier would have given them an offensive weapon the likes they rarely have. Now, how many games could Reto Berra steal?

Will you care about men’s Olympic hockey if neither NHL nor KHL take part?

The NHL has already decided to skip the 2018 Games. The KHL’s potential absence in light of the IOC’s ruling could drain the talent pool further, but hard-core hockey fans will still find compelling action and storylines to savor.

  • Russian Olympic ban: How IOC got here, what happens next

    What led the IOC to ban the Russian Olympic Committee? How will the IOC determine “clean” athletes for the 2018 Games? And what about that hockey team? We break down Tuesday’s dramatic ruling.

  • After Russia ban, more chaos for 2018 Olympic hockey

    The International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, promises to further dilute a men’s ice hockey tournament that’s already missing NHL talent. Here’s what happens next.

  • 8. Pittsburgh Penguins

    Record: 15-11-3
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 11

    Tom Kuhnhackl. This is a tricky one. Sidney Crosby? Been there, seen it twice. Evgeni Malkin? Three times. Jake Guentzel wouldn’t be cemented in that Team USA lineup, with his lack of international starts. Phil Kessel … well, sure, if USA Hockey got over itself and invited him back. So we’re going with Kuhnhackl, because Germany is in this tournament, he only represented his country in three games and he is the second-leading scorer among German NHL players this season. (We’ll get to the top scorer in a bit, because his team is terrible right now.).

    9. Columbus Blue Jackets

    Record: 17-10-1
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 4

    Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob had a 1.15 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage in Sochi, so it wasn’t his fault that Russia didn’t medal. He deserved another shot.

    10. Washington Capitals

    Record: 17-11-1
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 13

    Alex Ovechkin. Who else, right? He has never won an Olympic medal. He has never played in a championship round in the NHL. Maybe away from the pressure cooker of Sochi, the Russians could have thrived. He has eight goals in 17 Olympic games.

    11. Vegas Golden Knights

    Record: 17-9-1
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 9

    William Karlsson. Sometimes, players earn their spots on Olympic teams based on their play during the regular season before the Games. It would have been interesting to see if Karlsson became such a case, considering that he has been nearly a point-per-game (25 in 27 games) guy for the Knights.

    12. New York Islanders

    Record: 16-9-2
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 7

    Jaroslav Halak. Hey, remember Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey? Put Halak on a big stage, and he’ll do his best to steal a game or two when the odds are heavily against his team, as they would have been for Slovakia.

    13. New York Rangers

    Record: 15-10-2
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 17

    Mats Zuccarello. There’s no denying that Zuc, who was once known as the Norwegian Hobbit Wizard, is a highlight reel who loves repping his country.

    14. Dallas Stars

    Record: 16-11-1
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 14

    Tyler Seguin. His teammate Jamie Benn played in six Olympic games in Sochi. Seguin never has. He also has 249 points in his last 253 NHL games, ninth most in the league. This could have been his turn.

    15. Calgary Flames

    Record: 14-12-2
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 18

    Johnny Gaudreau. The Flames star was poised to play a key offensive role on Team USA in the Olympics. He had eight points in eight games in the 2014 World Championships, and four points in three games at the World Cup for Team North America.

    16. Chicago Blackhawks

    Record: 12-11-5
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 15

    Jonathan Toews. All the guy does is win on the international stage and contribute to those wins. Toews has 11 points in 13 Olympic games to go along with five points in six games during the World Cup.

    17. Vancouver Canucks

    Record: 14-10-4
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 19

    Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. Would the twins have played for Team Sweden? It’s possible, given that they represented their home nation at the World Cup. Henrik has six points in 12 Olympic games; Daniel has 12 points in 18 games.

    18. Anaheim Ducks

    Record: 12-11-6
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 22

    John Gibson. While Jonathan Quick might have gotten another turn between the pipes, Gibson would have been in the mix to become Team USA’s starter.

    19. Minnesota Wild

    Record: 13-11-3
    Week 7 ranking: No. 24

    Nino Niederreiter. The winger appeared in four games for the Swiss in Sochi. He’s a better player now than he was then.

    20. San Jose Sharks

    Record: 14-10-2Week 5 ranking: No. 12

    Joe Pavelski. The Sharks star had eight points in 12 games for Team USA in the past two Olympics. At 33, this might have been his last shot at winning gold — or, at a minimum, at finally beating Canada in the medal round.

    21. Montreal Canadiens

    Record: 13-13-3
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 23

    Carey Price. While there would have been other options for Team Canada in goal — hello, Braden Holtby — Price would have been the favorite for starter, and to potentially win back-to-back golds.

    22. Boston Bruins

    Record: 12-9-4
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 16

    Brad Marchand. We’ve been robbed of the chance to see the Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Marchand line dominate at the Olympics. And you know who’s sad about that? His mom, that’s who.

    23. Carolina Hurricanes

    Record: 11-10-5
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 21

    Sebastian Aho. The Finns have their share of great young players, and Aho, an explosive winger, would have been one of them.

    24. Philadelphia Flyers

    Record: 10-11-7
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 29

    Shayne Gostisbehere. Would Team USA have conjured the Ghost, or would USA Hockey have found some flaw in his game to keep him off the roster?

    25. Colorado Avalanche

    Record: 12-12-2
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 20

    Nathan MacKinnon. With 31 points in 26 games and previous international experience with Team Canada, would MacKinnon have played his way onto the team for South Korea?

    26. Edmonton Oilers

    Record: 11-15-2
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 28

    Leon Draisaitl. All due respect to Connor McDavid, but we would have been thrilled to watch Draisaitl try to carry his German mates to a win at the Olympics. He has eight points in 15 world championship games.

    27. Ottawa Senators

    Record: 9-11-6
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 26

    Erik Karlsson. His Olympic debut was in Sochi. He had eight points in six games for Sweden. He’s really, really good.

    28. Florida Panthers

    Record: 10-13-4
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 27

    Aleksander Barkov. The Panthers standout played two games in Sochi and would have had a big role on a dangerous Finland team.

    29. Detroit Red Wings

    Record: 11-12-5
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 25

    Dylan Larkin. Another one of Team USA’s dynamic young guns who would have contributed mightily in South Korea … provided USA Hockey didn’t opt for a team of muckers and grinders. Again.

    30. Arizona Coyotes

    Record: 7-18-5
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 30

    Tobias Rieder. One of a handful of NHL players in Team Germany, he has appeared internationally 27 times.

    31. Buffalo Sabres

    Record: 7-17-4
    Week 7 Ranking: No. 31

    Jack Eichel. Yeah, Team USA was going to be fun to watch in South Korea. Really fun.

    Article source: http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/21689763/nhl-2017-18-power-rankings-players-team-wish-were-going-olympic-games