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  • Which Minnesota Wild Players Will Make the 2026 Olympics?

    Image courtesy of Andrew Nelles - USA TODAY Sports
    Tony Abbott

    The Minnesota Wild are about to get more Olympians in their locker room. With the NHL skipping participation in the 2018 and 2022 Winter Olympics, there haven't been many opportunities for this group of Wild players to go for the Gold. The last time NHL players were allowed in the Games was 2014, which means a good chunk of the Wild's roster wasn't even drafted yet. Even longtime Wild players like Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin have never had that opportunity.

    Now the NHL and the NHLPA have agreed to send NHL players to the Olympics in 2026 and 2030. With many players in their prime, the Wild should have decent representation on the highest international stage.

    The only current players on the Wild roster to go to the Olympic Games are Mats Zuccarello (7 games in 2010 and 2014 for Team Norway), Marc-Andre Fleury (0 games in 2010 for Team Canada), Marcus Johansson (5 games in 2014 for Team Sweden), and kind of shockingly, Kirill Kaprizov (six games for Team Olympic Athletes of Russia).

    But there will be Wild players going in 2026. The only question is: Which ones? We'll run down the chances of Wild players who are either on the books or for whom Minnesota have the rights to for the 2025-26 season in order of most likely to least likely.

    Slam Dunks

    Joel Eriksson Ek, Team Sweden

    Eriksson Ek might not be the best center on Team Sweden, but there's no way he won't get an important role at the Olympics. The Wild trust him to shut down the NHL's best on a nightly basis, and Sweden would be making a foolish error not letting him do the same in a best-on-best tournament. Add his clutch goal-scoring, and you have the biggest shoo-in on the roster.

    Slam Dunks (If Qualified)

    Kirill Kaprizov, Team Russia

    The only things that could stop Kaprizov from playing for Russia are injuries and Russia. The IIHF suspended Russia and Belarus from IIHF events for this season because of their war on Ukraine. If this war and/or ban continues, Russia will be out of the 2026 Olympic games, along with Kaprizov.

    Mats Zuccarello, Team Norway

    Zuccarello will be 38 in 2026. He will also probably still be the best Norwegian hockey player. Zuccarello is still the only current Norwegian NHLer, and that isn't expected to change too much in the next two years.

    Marco Rossi, Team Austria

    Rossi made Team Austria in 2021 when Austria attempted to qualify for the 2022 Games. He did so despite those being his first games in eight months due to his bout of myocarditis. Austria is on the rise with fellow first-round picks David Reinbacher (No. 5 overall to the Montreal Canadiens in 2023) and Marco Kasper (No. 8 overall to the Detroit Red Wings in 2022) joining Rossi in the next chapter of their country's hockey history. Will it be enough to make the Games, though?

    On the Bubble

    Jonas Brodin, Team Sweden

    This feels like it should be a lock to people who watch Jonas Brodin every night. He's arguably the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL, and his skating would prove valuable to stopping high-end players like Connor McDavid and Jack Hughes on the rush. But Sweden has a blueline of Victor Hedman, Mattias Ekholm, and Erik Karlsson, and that's just for starters.

    Over the past six seasons, Brodin ranks sixth in Evolving-Hockey's WAR among Sweden-born defensemen, fighting it out with the likes of Marcus Pettersson, Rasmus Andersson, and Hampus Lindholm. We'll see if he can beat out those challengers and any newcomers to try laying claim to a roster spot.

    Brock Faber, Team USA

    This might seem like Fabermania run amok (Or aBrock? We'll keep working on it.), but he's been one of the best defensemen in the NHL this season. What's to say he can't parlay this run into an Olympics appearance? While the US has an embarrassment of riches on the blueline with Quinn Hughes, Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Chychrun, and more, Faber's performance this year is right there among them as a rookie. His two-way shutdown role would theoretically be better suited in a bottom-of-the-lineup role than someone like, say, Zach Werenski. Keep an eye on this one.

    Matt Boldy, Team USA

    Is it weird to think Boldy has a chance to be the best snub of the 2026 Olympics? We're talking about one of the best players in hockey. He's 51st in the NHL in WAR since the 2021-22 season, where he made his debut halfway through. His 62 goals are tied with the likes of Alex Tuch and Anze Kopitar for 77th in the league over that time.

    But jeez, that Team USA lineup will be difficult to make it in as a wing. Even in the area Boldy's a value add -- size -- there are plenty of big wingers for the Americans. Chris Kreider, Jason Robertson, Tage Thompson, and Tuch are all 6-foot-3 or taller, and then they have hard-nosed, 6-foot-2 Matthew Tkachuk in tow. As for pure goal-scorers, players like Kyle Connor and Troy Terry can fill that kind of role along the wing. The US might even have the luxury of pushing a center like Jack Hughes to the wing. 

    Boldy can make it if he kicks his game up a notch over the next two years. But this is a tough, tough field for him to get through.

    Jesper Wallstedt, Team Sweden

    The reign of King Henrik Lundqvist is over, and his successor is... who, really? Maybe that's unfair to Linus Ullmark, who won the Vezina Trophy last year and has had a .913 or higher save percentage in the last five seasons. But in two years, he'll be 32, and we saw the other contender for King Henrik's throne, Jacob Markström, start to hit the wall in his early 30s.

    Ullmark probably gets that starter spot, so the backup position is wide-open. They could give the nod to a veteran like Markström, but rolling with Wallstedt makes for an investment in Sweden's future. Wallstedt already has experience representing Team Sweden in the World Championships, going 3-0-0 with a .947 save percentage last spring. If they're grooming The Great Vall (as he'd pronounce his name) of St. Paul for the role of Lundqvist's true successor, getting him to Milan makes a lot of sense.

    Long Shots

    Jared Spurgeon, Team Canada

    Spurgeon's arguably been Canada's best defenseman in the entire Analytics Era. But his star didn't rise until after 2014, and the NHL skipped two Olympics since then. Will Canada value his presence at age-36? For whatever reason, analysts never had him seriously in the conversation to go, even if the NHL was present at the 2018 and 2022 Games. We'd love to see it, but Spurgeon's career might have been in the wrong place at the wrong time for him to be an Olympian.

    Filip Gustavsson, Team Sweden

    If the "Gus Bus" were playing anywhere near where he did last season, he'd be on the bubble. Instead, he has an .896 save percentage in 29 games this season. He can take that spot if he can get back on track over the next 18 months or so. But his inconsistency doesn't make him a much better backup option in a best-on-best tournament than Wallstedt.

    Danila Yurov, Team Russia

    Yurov might even be on the bubble were it not for the IIHF ban. But that, combined with the fact that he's not an established NHLer, sends him to long-shot territory. It can't be discounted that Yurov has been putting up ridiculous numbers in the KHL this season, though. He's tied for 13th in goals with 21 and tied for 15th in points with 45. He's doing that at the age of 20. How much longer before he's in the same conversation with Kaprizov, Nikita Kucherov, and Artemi Panarin?

    Marat Khusnutdinov, Team Russia

    The last member on this list, and it was debatable whether to include him or not. But what it comes down to is: I'd be surprised but not shocked to see him at the 2026 Olympics. He's worn a letter for his Team Russia junior teams and SKA, one of the top clubs in the KHL. His speedy, disruptive style means he can contribute in the bottom six. It's just more likely to happen in 2030, when he's 27, than in 2026 for more than one reason.

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    This list looks pretty complete right now. Of course we're 2 years away.

    Sadly, with the Russia ban thing, I think a great deal of this goes into the politics lane. It greatly depends upon who is elected this year and what the Administration's goals are. I do not believe things will change much if things stay the same, but could change greatly if there is a change in the White House. We'll know in just 9 short months, or long months if you include the commercials that will run!

    And, it will probably be a lot longer if we miss the playoffs, though, draft season should be fun. Free agent season will likely be crickets....maybe the Twins will be in a solid race....maybe the Vikings will have found some traction?

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    They'll try to say Russia is banned because of doping scandals. Total BS!

    The world can continue to pretend the USA is above reproach and Russia is the hive of scum and villainy. 

    If Russia is canceled from the Olympics especially in hockey, it will 100% cheapen it. Just like it does for WJC.

    Not talking about the American people, but the Government and those in the shadows are plenty bad, equally if not more so than Russia that's for sure.

    Edited by Protec
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    34 minutes ago, Protec said:

    They'll try to say Russia is banned because of doping scandals. Total BS!

    The world can continue to pretend the USA is above reproach and Russia is the hive of scum and villainy. 

    If Russia is canceled from the Olympics especially in hockey, it will 100% cheapen it. Just like it does for WJC.

    Not talking about the American people, but the Government and those in the shadows are plenty bad, equally if not more so than Russia that's for sure.


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    Just saying the average Russian hockey player just wants to play hockey. Do you think they should be punished for stuff completely out of their control?(Players)

    China has human rights issues and nobody bans them. How about Canada? RCMP trampled a Grandma with a horse, they're not banned. Who blew up a gas pipeline in the North Sea to Europe? Crickets...

    I've heard the sports and politics should be separate argument but they're totally not in reality. Look at all the alignment made by leagues and teams to politics.

    Russian NHLers especially who already are subject to performance enhancing substance tests can't be banned for doping. If they're not allowed because of International Olympic Committee politics, that's a load of crud.

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