The Kraken are less than star studded, which means the only real possibilities of Seattle players participating in next winter’s best-on-best “4-Nations Face-off” tournament, announced by the NHL, Hockey Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) on Friday, are European forwards Alex Wennberg, Andre Burakovsky, and Eeli Tolvanen.
Wennberg represented Sweden at the Olympics in Soshi, Russia in 2014 and has twice joined his country’s roster for World Championship tournaments since then. The question is whether or not the 29-year-old could potentially be replaced by up-and-coming talent.
Sweden isn’t that strong up the middle. Veterans pose his biggest threat.
Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks is a shoe-in. His new teammate Elias Lindholm would also get strong consideration. “Petey” is 25, Lindholm 29.
New York Rangers veteran Mika Zibanejad has represented his country throughout his career and would be a strong choice at age-30. Joel Eriksson Ek of the Minnesota Wild is 27. William Karlsson of the Vegas Golden Knights is 31.
The young wild card who could be the bumper is 19-year-old Leo Carlsson of the Anaheim Ducks. Presently injured, the 2nd-overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft has an upside that would put him on Sweden’s national team roster for years to come.
Burakovsky was born in Austria to Swedish parents and was raised and trained in Sweden. He’s played for their national team at various levels. If health doesn’t continue to be an issue, the 28-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup champion will be in the mix on the wing. He was a teenager the last time the NHL allowed players in the Olympics and his country’s depth was strong.
Tolvanen will get a crack at it for the Finns. A bonus is the fact the 24-year-old lefty shooter can perform on either wing and he’s playing the most complete hockey of his career. The change of scenery to Seattle has treated him well.
There’s no reason to really list all of the excellent Finnish forwards at the moment, including centers who could move to the wing, because Tolvanen will be right in the mix.
Kraken Between The Pipes
If Massachusetts native Joey Daccord continues his trajectory, he might be considered a threat down the road to represent Team USA. At the moment, this would be somewhere between day dreaming and a fantasy, especially considering his competition. The Kraken late bloomer is already 27.
Californian Thatcher Demko (28) of the Canucks is large and in charge. while Michigander Connor Hellebuyck (30) of the Winnipeg Jets would also be considered a lock. Minnesotan Jake Oettinger (25) of the Dallas Stars would be another strong candidate, while Boston Bruins keeper Jeremy Swayman (25), from Alaska, has also emerged.
Let’s not forget Pennsylvanian John Gibson (31), who plays for a struggling Anaheim Ducks club, but won World Junior Gold and the tournament MVP award in 2013. If he’s healthy, he’s nails.
So, unless Daccord absolutely tears it up for the next 12 months, it’s not looking so good.
Then again, keep in mind, the NHL also announced that it will be allowing its players to participate in the Winter Olympics in both 2026 and 2030. That’s at least three best-on-best international tournaments in the next seven years.
That opens things up to German goalie Philipp Grubauer, Slovakian forward Tomas Tatar, and potentially Danish winger Oliver Bjorkstrand. Denmark may or may not qualify. The Winter Olympics involve 12 countries.
The NHL didn’t participate in the 2018 Games in South Korea or those in China in 2022.
None of the current American or Canadian Kraken skaters will get a sniff.