While the announcement that National Hockey League players will not be attending the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing put a damper on many fans’ excitement for the Games, there is one team who should be secretly excited about the news: the Chinese men’s ice hockey team. The 32nd ranked squad, according to the International Ice Hockey Federation, will not have to face the best in the world. However there is still going to be a plethora of talent coming their way, as they face medal favourites US, Canada and Germany. The Americans have already revealed their roster for Beijing 2022 and it is loaded with NCAA talent, 15 players to be exact. Multiple prospects have been drafted by NHL squads from Division I teams and the Olympics will give scouts another chance to look at potential players who could make the jump. There are also eight players who are currently playing professionally in Europe in such leagues as Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (seen as the best league outside North America) and the Swedish Hockey League. Six players on the squad have NHL experience and two are currently in the American Hockey League, the main feeder league for the NHL. They will have leadership and experience upfront from Nick Shore, who was a 2011 third-round draft pick by Los Angeles Kings. He played 299 games with five teams in the NHL, scoring 18 goals and 41 assists. They will also have Brian O’Neill, who currently plays in the KHL, as the lone returning Olympian from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games where the squad made it to the quarter finals. NHL’s Beijing absence may signal end of Winter Games deal Most importantly, the squad will have a number of young guns (the team’s average age is just 25) who could blossom into NHL stars. This includes 19-year-old Matty Beniers, who was taken by the expansion Seattle Kraken with the second overall pick in last year’s draft. Beniers is currently averaging more than a point a game with the University of Michigan in the NCAA’s Division I, and is seen as the complete package: a centre who can play well at both ends of the ice. When it comes to team Canada, the highest ranked squad in the world, we do not know the roster yet as Hockey Canada has not released it, but we do know one thing: there is a chance Owen Power, who was selected first overall in last year’s NHL draft, could very well wear the maple leaf come February. Power is playing alongside Berniers right now at the University of Michigan, and is seen as a potential top pairing defenceman in the NHL, a highly coveted role in the game of hockey. Power would give China headaches each shift on Olympic-sized ice as he is seen as a top notch passer who can break down offences, and he also clocks in at 197 centimetres. Canada’s roster will most likely look like the squad who won bronze at the 2018 edition in Korea, filled out by ex-NHLers who are currently playing in the KHL and all over Europe. There is also however one really enticing player who has expressed interest in playing, Eric Stall, who at one point in his career, was seen as an NHL superstar. Stall’s resume is impressive to say the least and he would be a lock to captain the squad. The 37-year-old is not playing for anyone after helping the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup final last year, but his agent says he’s been working out and wants to play in the Olympics. He would bring 1,034 points (441 goals) in 1,293 NHL regular-season games, plus a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricans in 2005 and Olympic gold in 2010 to a team that would need to gel quickly and find quick leadership. Finally Germany will also prove to be a formidable opponent for China in their group match, and the squad who won silver in 2018 will be just as good four years later. Germany will be tough because much like in Korea, basically all of the players will be coming from the German Bundesliga, which means the squad will have instant chemistry right out of the gate. China will then face one last opponent in a elimination style game, and that may be their best chance to potentially score a few goals, or give a team a scare, however their group games will most likely be them trying to keep the score to respectable double digits and hoping they can play strong defence and capitalise on the few chances they may get.