Carey Price plays for Team Canada at the World Cup
(Photo Credit: @NHL/ Twitter)

The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place from February 4th to 20th, 2022, in Beijing. Men’s ice hockey is one of the record 109 sporting events scheduled for the Games. NHL players are expected to participate in the Winter Olympics for the first time since Sochi 2014.

Team Canada took home bronze in the last Olympics in 2018 Pyeongchang. The NHL did not participate in those Olympics, which ended a run of five consecutive Winter Olympics with NHL players. Canada’s goalies for the tournament were Kevin Poulin and Ben Scrivens.

Prior to Pyeongchang, Team Canada won consecutive gold medals with NHL players in 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi. Canucks’ goalie Roberto Luongo led Canada to Gold in 2010, while Habs’ netminder Carey Price backstopped the 2014 team.

Each Olympic hockey team is allowed to carry three goalies on their roster, which means Team Canada GM Roberto Luongo and assistant GM Shane Doan will need to select three Canadian goaltenders to be included on their 2022 team.

While we already know superstars such as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby will be leading the charge on offense, the goaltending position is up for debate. Although Price could very well be back in the cage for Canada, several other Canadian netminders provide stiff competition.

Who will be Team Canada’s starting goalie at the 2022 Olympics? Here’s a list of the five most likely candidates:

5. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues 

St. Louis Blues netminder Jordan Binnington is on the outside looking in when it comes to Team Canada’s goalies at the 2022 Olympics. The 27-year-old was a prime candidate for the starting role following the Blues’ Cup run in 2019. Binnington was called up from the AHL in January that year and went on to backstop St. Louis to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. The Richmond Hill native proved he could deliver when the pressure was on, posting a .914 save during the run to the Cup.

Unfortunately, Binnington has failed to live up to the standards he set in his fantastic debut season. His play has been declining, and his two most recent playoff showings were abysmal. Binnington posted a .851 save percentage in the 2020 Playoffs against Vancouver before recording a .899 save percentage in the 2021 Playoffs against Colorado. He also has very limited international experience, appearing in just one World Juniors back in 2012-13. Additionally, his short temper is becoming a problem and something management will need to consider. Binnington’s epic run in 2019 still makes him a candidate for the 2022 starting role, but he’ll need an impressive bounce back 2021-22 NHL season to really get into the picture.

4. MacKenzie Blackwood, New Jersey Devils 

New Jersey Devils’ netminder MacKenzie Blackwood is the true wildcard when it comes to Team Canada’s goaltenders at the 2022 Olympics. The 24-year-old wasn’t in many of these Olympic discussions a few years ago, but his play has been impossible to ignore. Blackwood has simply been one of the best NHL goaltenders since beginning his career in 2018-19. Since entering the league, Blackwood’s .911 save percentage ranks fifth among all Canadian netminders who have started at least 100 games.

Blackwood is hard to evaluate as he’s playing on one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL. The Devils allowed 3.38 goals per game in 2020-21, which was fourth-worst in the league. Blackwood bailed out his team on numerous occasions, but he also battled inconsistency. He has the ability to takeover a game, but his .903 save percentage in 2020-21 isn’t going to stand out to Team Canada management. Much like with Binnington, Blackwood will need a strong 2021-22 NHL campaign to get himself into Olympic roster discussions.

3. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights 

2021 Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury is a very strong candidate to be Team Canada’s starting goalie at the 2022 Olympics. The Vegas Golden Knights netminder had one of his best NHL seasons to date in 2020-21, posting a 26-10-0 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage along with six shutouts. Fleury is easily the most accomplished goalie on this list, capturing three Stanley Cups as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. His diving buzzer beater save on Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom in 2009 is still remembered as one of the most clutch stops in hockey history.

Fleury might seem like the perfect candidate for the starting role in 2022, but he has things working against him. For starters, Fleury will be turning 37 in November and is the oldest of the candidates. He’s also prone to making costly mistakes in pressure situations, as exemplified in the 2021 Playoffs. Fleury’s costly third-period error in Game 3 against Colorado led to Vegas losing the game. You also can’t forget Fleury’s puck handling error in the 2004 World Juniors that cost Canada the Gold Medal. Despite his age and potential for mistakes, Fleury remains a very deserving candidate. Over the last five years, Vancouver Canucks’ goalie Braden Holtby is the only Canadian netminder with more NHL wins than Fleury (135).

2. Carter Hart, Philadelphia Flyers 

There was once a time when Philadelphia Flyers’ goalie Carter Hart appeared destined to be Team Canada’s starting goalie at the 2022 Olympics. The Sherwood Park native was hyped as one of the greatest Canadian goaltending prospects in a long time. Philadelphia drafted him in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft with hopes they could put an end their longstanding goalie carousel. Hart can still live up to the expectations, but his Olympic future is in question after a disastrous 2020-21 NHL season. Hart was one of the worst goalies in the league, posting a .877 save percentage and 3.67 GAA. He simply fell off a cliff after entering the year as a potential Vezina candidate.

Hart remains a strong candidate for the Olympic starting role because the talent is clearly there. As a rookie in 2018-19, Hart ranked top-15 among all starting NHL goalies with a .917 percentage in 30 starts. One thing Hart has working for him is his international experience and reputation among Team Canada coaches and management. Hart backstopped the Team Canada World Junior team to Gold in 2018 and also impressed at the IIHF Worlds.

Hart had his 2020-21 NHL season cut short due to an MCL Sprain, but he’s reportedly back to full health. The 22-year-old has been vocal about his mental health struggles during the pandemic, so it’s hard to place emphasis on his struggles during the shortened NHL season. Given his talent and calming crease presence, a bounce-back season is sure to earn Hart significant Team Canada Olympic consideration.

1. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens 

Carey Price is the most likely candidate to be Team Canada’s starting goalie at the 2022 Olympics. The 33-year-old has been proven to be one of the most reliable NHL goaltenders on the biggest stages. Price is 7-2 all-time with two shutouts and a .944 save percentage in winner take-all-games. When the pressure is on, Price performs his best. You also can’t ignore the fact he was the last goalie to backstop Team Canada to Gold at the Olympics. The BC native was outstanding in Sochi, posting consecutive shutouts against USA in the semifinals and against Sweden in the Gold Medal game. Price also backstopped Canada to Gold at the 2007 World Juniors.

Price may seem like the obvious choice to get the start for Canada in Beijing, but there are questions marks. Although Price was excellent for the Habs in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, his play in the regular season has been declining. Price posted a .901 save percentage during the 2020-21 regular season for Montreal and almost lost the crease to backup Jake Allen. If he starts slow again in 2021-22, Team Canada management will need to have some tough conversations.

There’s no doubting Price deserves to be Team Canada’s starter in 2022, but we could be looking at a situation similar to 2010. Veteran Martin Brodeur entered the 2010 Olympics as Canada’s starter, but after an early loss to USA, he was benched in favor of the younger Luongo. If Price doesn’t impress, he could very well lose his spot to one of the other deserving candidates.

Honourable Mention: Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes