The NHL announced that its players would not be heading to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing at the end of last year, instead opting to use the built-in Olympic break to play at have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This will be the second consecutive Olympiad without players from the top men’s ice hockey league in the world. While we won’t get to see some of our own Seattle Kraken suiting up for their home countries — like Philipp Grubauer for Germany, or Adam Larsson for Sweden, or Alexander True for Denmark — we won’t be completely deprived of our favorite NHL team’s presence at these Olympic Games.
On Thursday afternoon, Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff reported that Matty Beniers, Seattle’s first draft pick in team history, would get an invite to join team USA this February in Beijing.
NEWS: Reporting with @chrismpeters, team and league sources tell @DailyFaceoff these 15 players have been invited to play for Team USA at #Beijing2022 Olympics.— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) January 6, 2022
List is still fluid, not all have confirmed participation, and @USAHockey is actively adding others. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/jAdBFDawZO
Beniers was an assistant captain in this year’s short-lived IIHF World Juniors, which were cancelled before they ever really started. But it appears he will still get a chance to don the red white and blue this year (though in a far worse configuration) as part of the Olympic team. Beniers is currently tied for 11th in NCAA Division 1 with 11 goals scored, and tired for first on a stacked University of Michigan team.
A quick aside while we’re on this topic: Beniers has not signed a contract with the Kraken as of yet, and I want to assure you, the reader, that this is not weird. Fans of the NFL who are newer to hockey might think that a drafted player not signing with his team means there is some sort of hidden animosity between player and club, but things simply work different in hockey. Beniers is only a sophomore at the university of Michigan, and players who sign entry level contracts (ELC) immediately become ineligible to play for their college team. It’s very common for players from the NCAA to get drafted and not sign immediately with their new team, even 2nd-overall picks. The Kraken still retain the rights to sign him for four years, and in all likelihood Beniers will sign this offseason and has a very good chance to make the opening day roster next NHL season. But first, he’s going to finish out the year on a college team with four of the top five picks in last year’s draft — a very good opportunity to win an NCAA championship before making the leap to pro hockey.
Last time the NHL did not go to the Olympics, there were a few other notable Seattle names on the team USA roster. Ryan Donato was the team leader in goals (5) and points (6), and Will Borgen, though he didn’t make it in to any games, was still a part of that roster.
Congrats to Matty Beniers, we can’t wait to see him leading team USA this February in Beijing!