NHL returns to the Olympics; which Rangers are most likely to participate

Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL is finally making a return to Olympic play! NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Friday that NHL players would be eligible to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in 2026 and 2030. It is the first time that NHL players will be allowed to participate since the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“The international composition of National Hockey League rosters is unparalleled, and NHL players take great pride in representing their countries,” mentioned Commissioner Bettman. “We are pleased that today, after intense collaborative efforts with the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation, we can formally announce that NHL Players will participate in both the 2026 and 2030 Olympic hockey tournaments.”

The NHL also announced the “Four Nations Face-Off” tournament, which will take place in February of 2025. The tournament will consist of seven games between the United States, Canada, Sweden, and Finland.

The announcement of the return to international play was a big boost to the morale of players around the league. Among those is the great Sidney Crosby, who was excited about the news.

“It’s an unbelievable experience to see the best players go head-to-head, representing their country. From my experience, I don’t know if you get better hockey than that,” Crosby noted.

With the NHL making its long-awaited return to international play, here are a few New York Rangers who may earn the chance to represent their country.

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New York Rangers at the Olympics

NHL: New York Rangers at Washington Capitals
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Fox – United States of America

Adam Fox has been playing at an elite level since entering the NHL in 2019. In 324 career games, he has registered 272 points (44G-228A), and has been a mainstay on the Rangers’ first defensive pair. He last competed internationally for Team USA at the IIHF World Championship in 2019. He also played in three World Junior Championships with the U20 and U18 teams.

One of the best American-born defenseman in the game, consider Adam Fox a lock to appear in both the Olympics and the Four Nations Face-Off in the near future.

Chris Kreider – United States of America

Over the last few years, very few NHL Players have scored as many goals as Chris Kreider. Since scoring 52 goals in the 2020-21 season, he’s posted 111 and counting in 209 games. That’s good for 6th overall in the NHL during that span and tops among all U.S. born players.

A well-respected veteran leader, not only could he have an opportunity to play for Team USA, but is a prime candidate to wear a letter. While he’s unlikely to be named captain, an honor expected to go to Auston Matthews, Kreider should easily be an assistant captain for the squad.

Correction: Kreider is second among U.S. born players for players (first is Matthews).

Artemi Panarin – Russia/Neutral Flag

While there are still sanctions against Russia in place handed out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it appears likely that Russian athletes will be allowed to play in the 2026 Olympics. Whether that is under Team Russia or a neutral flag, Artemi Panarin is likely to be named to the team. At the age of 32, Panarin is having a career year this season. He has 66 points (30G-36A) in 49 games for the Rangers.

No stranger to international play, Artemi Panarin has appeared at both the Junior and Senior level for Russia. He won the silver medal (2015) and the bronze medal (2016, 2017) for Russia at the IIHF World Championship. Should Panarin be named to the roster, it will be his first time competing in the Olympic Games.

Igor Shesterkin – Russia/Neutral Flag

Another Russian-born player who could find himself on an Olympic roster is Igor Shesterkin. Though his numbers are down this season, he is still an elite goaltender and one of the best Russian goaltenders in the NHL. He will likely compete with Andrei Vasilevsky and Ilya Sorokin for the starting job in 2026.

Shesterkin’s pedigree of international play dates all the way back to the 2012-2013 season, where he played in the U18 World Junior Championship. He played in the World Juniors again in 2015, and was a member of Team Russia in the World Championship in 2016, 2017, and 2018. He was one of the top goalies of the tournament in 2018, registering two shutouts.

Mika Zibanejad – Sweden

Still scoring at nearly a point per game, Mika Zibanejad is one of the best Swedish-born players in the NHL. This season he has 46 points (15G-31A) in 48 games for New York and would be a fine addition for Team Sweden at both the Olympic Games and the Four Nations Face-Off.

Zibanejad is best known for his golden goal at the 2012 World Junior Championship. His goal was the only tally of the game and would secure only the second gold medal for Sweden at the World Juniors and first since 1981. Should he make the 2026 roster, it will be Zibanejad’s first Olympic appearance.

Filip Chytil – Czechia

One of the best story lines would be for Filip Chytil to return from an incredibly unfortunate situation and find himself on the 2026 Olympic roster for Czechia. After being ruled out for the remainder of this season, Chytil posted to the fans saying “I will be back stronger than ever”. It would be great to see him put up some great numbers next season and earn himself a spot in the Olympic Games.

Filip Chytil played in the U18 WJC and the World Juniors in 2018. He also played in the World Championship in 2018 and 2021. Making the upcoming Olympic roster would be an incredible comeback story for the 24-year-old center who has been riddled with concussions throughout his young career.

While the Olympic games are still two years away, it is an exciting time for the hockey community and the NHL. In addition to the Four Nations Face-Off, having NHL players back in the Olympic Games is going to be a lot of fun to watch. Hopefully, there will be no shortage of New York Rangers talent when the rosters are finalized.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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