We simulated the results of the Olympic hockey tournament with NHL players – Washington Post

Alex Ovechkin won’t be playing during the Winter Olympics, but here’s what his team could have looked like. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Winter Olympics will lack NHL players for the first time since 1998. Instead, college prospects, AHL veterans, various players from the European leagues and even former NHL players will try to bring the gold home to their respective countries. While that may add some feel-good stories to the fabric of the Winter Games, it will deprive the world of watching the best athletes in the sport. And it will considerably shake up expectations for which teams should take home medals.

It’s a particularly tough break for Team USA, who could have perhaps fielded its most-competitive national team in years. Phenoms Auston Matthews (26 goals, 10th in the NHL) and Johnny Gaudreau (66 points, 2nd), plus veteran Phil Kessel (65 points, tied-4th) would have skated alongside Washington Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson on a gold-medal contending squad.

Team Canada will be significantly affected, too, as they’ll lack the services of Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid and former MVP Carey Price in net. Russia, Sweden and Finland are also forced to send players with less talent than those we have seen in past Olympics.

Ah, what might have been. But using a blend of traditional metrics (goals, assists, points, ice time and save percentage, if applicable) and advanced stats (shot percentage, expected goals, penalties drawn, etc.) for the 2017-18 season we’ve crafted rosters for each nation that include the NHL’s stars and simulated the medal round games to project the winners.

Here’s a look at what might have been in PyeongChang. (Note: Since this is fantasy anyway, we’re not accounting for injured players.)

Team USA

Forwards

Top line: Johnny Gaudreau — Auston Matthews —

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