With NHL players no longer going to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, teams are looking elsewhere for players. Two prospects of the Toronto Maple Leafs got invited to play for Team USA.
Playing on the world stage at an event such as the Winter Olympics is an honor for anyone given the opportunity. It is a shame that players from the Toronto Maple Leafs and the rest of the NHL will not be going, as this might be either the last chance or only chance certain players will have.
The other downside to NHL players not going is many of the teams participating will not be playing with their country’s best players. Teams such as Team Canada or Team USA are usually comprised entirely of NHL players.
For the 2022 Winter Olympics, teams must look elsewhere for their rosters. Fans will see teams selecting players from the AHL, NCAA, SHL, Liiga, and KHL to make up their Olympic rosters. Such is what has recently started happening for Team USA.
Two Toronto Maple Leafs Prospects Invited To Play With Team USA
Team USA has recently invited Toronto prospects Matthew Knies and Nick Abruzzese to play for them at the Winter Olympics. Both players are having decent seasons in the NCAA this year. It will be interesting to see how these prospects and others like them perform when the whole world is watching. The stage will not get much bigger than this for them.
Matthew Knies is the Toronto Maple Leafs most recent top draft selection. He got selected in the second round of the 2021 NHL draft with the 57th overall pick. This season Knies has seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points in 20 games with the University of Minnesota.
(Stats from eliteprospects.com)
Knies was on Team USA for the recently canceled World Junior Championship. He recorded one goal in one game. He now has a bigger chance to represent his country on the Olympic stage.
Nick Abruzzese got drafted by Toronto in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL draft with the 124th overall pick. He is in his third year at Harvard University in the NCAA and is the Crimson’s team captain this season. So far this season, Abruzzese has registered five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 13 games.
Playing for Team USA at the Olympics could be a big stepping stone in his development. Abruzzese is expected to play his fourth and final NCAA season next year. He currently remains unsigned by Toronto, but that could change with a good showing on the Olympic stage.
Going to the Olympics will be a great experience for both of these Toronto Maple Leafs prospects. I would not be surprised to see a few more Toronto prospects invited to their various country’s teams for the 2022 Olympics. We could see Topi Niemela invited to Team Finland, and we could also see Kristians Rubins invited to Team Latvia.