NHL officially announces return to best-on-best hockey at the 2026 & 2030 Winter Olympics
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 2, 2024
Amid a bit of a disappointing week where the Flames will have zero representatives at the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Competition (sorry, Tate McRae), this info provides some good news for fans as several players are locks to represent their country. Others will have compelling storylines as they push to make their country’s Olympic roster. Fun stuff.
With that said, let’s dig into which current Calgary Flames players have a chance to be in attendance in 2026.
Likely 2026 Olympics Selections
Rasmus Andersson – Team Sweden
There are a few ways things could go, but Sweden’s blue line at the Olympics will most likely look like this:
Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson, and Mattias Ekholm are all 33 years old this year and will be 35 by the 2026 Olympics – that would likely be their last shot before the next generation takes over. Hedman likely being the exception.
At the age of 29 by the time the Olympics roll around and currently the fourth-highest scoring Swedish defenceman in the NHL behind two of said 33-year-olds, Rasmus Andersson has a solid chance of representing his country in 2026.
Yegor Sharangovich & Ilya Solovyov – Team Belarus
The Calgary Flames currently hold the rights to two of the best Belarusian hockey players currently playing in North America. Yegor Sharangovich leads the pack by a significant marker. His current 33-goal, 59-point pace far outstretches the only other full-time Belarusian NHL player, Aliaksei Protas—a center on the Washington Capitals on pace for five goals and 31 points in 80 games.
Belarus will need defencemen and 23-year-old Ilya Solovyov has a chance of developing into a full-season NHLer by 2026. The AHL also has Daniil Misyul and Dmitri Kuzmin, who will likely get the call to join “Solo” on the Belarus blue line.
Jacob Markstrom – Team Sweden
If the Olympics were this year, Markstrom would likely be Sweden’s number one on the depth chart and the guy they roll with through the elimination rounds. His ability to steal games since returning to the lineup has been remarkable. Boston’s Linus Ullmark stands as his only competition for the number one role, and the two would be locked in for Olympic roster spots.
A lot can happen in two years. At the age of 34, Markstrom will have an interesting journey over the next two seasons to prove that he deserves to dawn blue and yellow in 2026.
Martin Pospisil- Team Slovakia
With four goals and seven assists for 11 points in 33 games this season, Martin Pospisil’s health would be the only factor keeping the scrappy winger off of the Team Slovakia Olympic roster.
Beyond filling the net, Pospisil’s speed provides plentiful zone entries and forechecking opportunities.
Fellow countryman and former Calgary Flames teammate Adam Ruzicka will likely join Pospisil.
Mattias Emilio Pettersen – Team Norway
Only one Norweigan is playing in the NHL, and to his credit, he’s pretty good. Minnesota’s Mats Zuccarello is hands-down the best Norway product to grace the game. In terms of NHL games played, “Zuc” leads the all-time list by over 599 on Espen Knutsen.
The lack of representation at the highest level is slowly changing. The Coyotes selected defenceman Emil Martinsen Lilleberg in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The draft prior saw another defenceman, Ole Julian Bjorgvik-Holm, go to Columbus in the fifth round. Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (2017) and Markus Soberg (2013) are also likely invites.
And then there is the diminutive Mathias Emilio Pettersen of the Calgary Flames. With seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points in 41 games with the AHL Wranglers this season, Pettersen likely sees first line and top powerplay deployment on Norway at the 2026 Olympics.
Andrei Kuzmenko – Team Russia
The question isn’t whether the newest Calgary Flame is worthy of attendance. Kuzmenko is projected to score 13 goals this season but will likely see a bump in production with more offensive deployment under Ryan Huska.
Even with 13 goals this campaign, that would put Kuzmenko at an average of 26 goals in two NHL seasons. His name is well known in Russia after getting into six seasons in the KHL. His final year a 20 goal, 53 point campaign in 45 games.
The question is whether Russia and its athletes will be allowed to attend. An issue that the IIHF is planning to address.
There is an IIHF meeting next week to discuss if Russia will be allowed to play in upcoming international hockey events.
No decision yet on the 2026 Olympics
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) February 2, 2024
Outside Shot to Attend the 2026 Olympics
Noah Hanifin – Team USA
At the same age as Rasmus Andersson, Hanifin is in tough to make the Team USA roster. Here’s a premature projection.
On the outside looking in from that projection would be John Carlson, Torey Krug, Hanifin, Jake Sanderson, Cam Fowler, Justin Faulk, and Brady Skjei. Injuries, the 2025 NHL regular season, and the ensuing post-season will play significant roles in deciding who goes.
MacKenzie Weegar – Team Canada
30-year-old Weegar is in a similar spot to Noah Hanifin. The Team Canada blue line is going to be loaded with first-pairing talent. Led by elite skater Cale Makar, here is another projection.
It’s possible that Weegar fights his way into the picture, but he has a lot of competition.
Daniel Vladar – Team Chechia
Czech goalies are quietly fighting an all-out war for two goaltending spots in the 2026 Team Chechia Olympic roster. Lukas Dostal of Anaheim, Petr Mrazek of Chicago, David Rittich of LA, Karel Vejmelka of Arizona, Vitek Vanecek of New Jersey, and Jiri Patera of Vegas all stand as competition for Calgary’s Daniel Vladar.
What is compelling is that all of those goaltenders have the potential to have strong 2025 seasons to further their case to attend.
Vladar would be served well in finding an organization that would give him a run as a number one netminder. The 6-foot-5 Praha, Czech Republic product will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 following next season.
Mikael Backlund – Team Sweden
Backlund was 24 when the NHL last let their players attend the Olympic Games in Sochi. The Västerås, Sweden product was just a couple of names short on the call list following a last-minute rib injury to Canucks star Daniel Sedin.
“We’ll see what happens. I don’t expect to go, but if I get the call, I’m obviously going,” Said Mikael Backlund to Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun at the time.
Backlund may be too far down the list of available players at the age of 36 by the time NHL players can next play at the Olympics.
Oliver Kylington – Team Sweden
There is a long line of Swedish blue liners to jump in front of for Oliver to attend the Olympics. While his game appears to have taken steps forward since returning to the lineup, it’s probably best not to put money on Kylington dawning the Tre Kronor at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games.