Olympians who could be headed to NHL after PyeongChang

For most of the former National Hockey League players who are currently representing their respective nations in PyeongChang, another chance to play for a Stanley Cup is likely not in the cards.

There are several, however, who will be using the spotlight at the Olympics not as a last hurrah of sorts, but as a means of accelerating their paths to the NHL. There are even a couple who have seen success in the show before and may be in line for one more Cup run as NHL teams load up on depth for the stretch.

Here’s a look at a few of the players who could potentially being seeing NHL time in the not-too-distant future:

Ryan Donato: By all accounts, it appears the Boston Bruins will hope to summon their 2014 second-round pick by the start of the 2018-19 season, at the latest. His blistering speed and ability to shoot the puck have been on full display in PeyongChang where he’s posted 3 points and managed eight shots on goals through his first three preliminary games. The son of former NHLer Ted Donato — who is also his coach in the ECAC — has 55 goals and 92 points in 91 career games with Harvard.

Karil Kaprizov: At just 20 years of age, the Russian is already in his fourth KHL season. Kaprisov has 15 goals and 40 points with CSKA Moscow this season. The Minnesota Wild fifth-round pick is tied with teammate Ilya Kovalchuk for the tournament league in goals (4) and has been a force in all three zones in each of OAR’s contests. Could the Wild look to add Kaprizov to the mix when his KHL season is over? There’s a chance.

Eeli Tolvanen: The 18-year-old phenom is not only one of the youngest players in the tournament, he’s been one of the most dominant. Tolvanen currently leads the tournament, posting six points through the preliminary round. His play so far combined with a 34-point effort for Jokerit in the KHL this season has brought strong rumblings that the No. 30 overall pick in last June’s draft could be making his way to the Predators in just in time for the playoffs. That would, however, have to wait to until his season with Jokerit is over.

Brian Gionta: At the opposite end of the spectrum from Tolvanen is Gionta, who has played over 1000 NHL games and posted 588 points in the show. The 39-year-old hasn’t scored yet for Team USA in the tourney, but his speed, tenacity, and youthful exuberance have been prevalent every game so far. With a Stanley Cup ring to his name, the experience being an NHL captain, and the game’s shift to a more advantageous state for smaller players, Gionta could see himself as a depth-add for several contenders’ impending playoff runs.

Ilya Kovalchuk: Another ex-NHLer in Ilya Kovalchuk was expected to dominate in this tournament, and so far he has. The Former Thrashers and Devils sniper posted five point in the preliminary round, just one behind Tolvanen for the lead after three games. Five times Kovalchuk posted over 40 goals in an NHL season, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns in with Atlanta. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 34 years old. Since jumping to the KHL to start the 2013-14 season, Kovalchuk has posted 285 points in 262 games. New Jersey currently owns his NHL rights if Kovalchuk does in fact head back to North America upon the conclusion of his KHL season — which complicates things, but still makes him a very intriguing top-six forward option on the right side for a few playoff-bound clubs.

James Wisniewski: The Canton, Michigan product is no stranger to putting up offensive numbers as an NHL blueliner, tallying 274 points in 552 career games with Chicago, Anaheim, Montreal, New York, Columbus, and Carolina. The right-handed defenceman can anchor a powerplay (he would boast a specialist role, most likely) and can fit as a depth piece for several contenders heading into this postseason.

Rasmus Dahlin: We know the surefire No. 1 overall pick in 2018 will be in the NHL next season. the only question that remains is ‘where?’

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