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Which Devils Head to Olympics in 2026?

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New Jersey Devils

Best-on-best hockey is set to return! The NHL, NHLPA, and the IIHF announced on Friday that the league will return to the Winter Olympic Games in 2026 and 2030. For much of the New Jersey Devils roster, it’ll be the first time they can compete in the tournament. The Devils’ pool of talent will surely see some of their players head to Milan to represent their respective countries. So which Devils might head to the 2026 games?

This isn’t to be confused with the additional international tournament announced by the NHL and NHLPA on Friday. Also introduced is the 4 Nations Face-Off tournament a year from now, where Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the United States will play seven games to determine a winner.

The smaller-scale tournament is not quite as inclusive. The situation in Russia makes things a bit too complicated, hence their exclusion.

As a result of the limited parties involved, a plethora of NHL talent will be absent from the 4 Nations Face-Off. Leon Draisaitl and Tim Stutzle (Germany), David Pastrnak and Tomas Hertl (Czech), as well as Nikita Kucherov and Kirill Kaprizov (Russia) are a few notable omissions.

The Devils are certainly going to see their top players that fit the 4 Nations criteria head to the tournament. However, there are nine qualified nations headed to the 2026 Olympics. Let’s look ahead at which Devils will play in the true best-on-best tournament.

Team Canada

Canada Lock: Dougie Hamilton

Potential Invites: Dawson Mercer, Tyler Toffoli

Team Canada might not be the hardest lineup to crack any longer. That honor could now go to the country south of the Canadian border. Regardless, it’s still a heckuva hill to climb to get there.

Suffice it to say that Canada’s roster will be stacked. Names like Cale Makar, Noah Dobson, and Alex Pietrangelo will certainly fill their blue line. However, you can add, with certainty, that Dougie Hamilton will be in the group of defensemen too.

The Devils’ No.1 defenseman has established himself as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. He’s currently sidelined with a torn pectoral injury, however, scored five goals and 16 points in 20 games before being sidelined

In 2022-23, Hamilton scored the most goals as a defenseman in a single season in Devils history, netting 22. The Devils defenseman finished fourth in NHL scoring among blueliners last season with 74 points.

For players such as Tyler Toffoli and Dawson Mercer, things become a bit tougher. Toffoli is an excellent goal-scorer. He netted 34 last season and is on pace to break 30 goals again this year. As for Mercer, he’s been the Devils’ Iron Man and is utilized in all three zones. However, they’ll both need to edge out players such as Zach Hyman and Sam Reinhart which appears a tall order at this point in time. Perhaps if someone is injured, the two Devils’ forwards have a shot.

Team USA

USA Lock: Jack Hughes

USA Invite: Luke Hughes

There’s an argument to be made that the USA is producing the best talent in the NHL. The red, white, and blue will potentially be the most difficult roster to make in 2026. Without a doubt, Devils’ superstar Jack Hughes is a lock for USA’s roster. Not only will he be on the team, but he can likely play in a top-six role on a stacked roster.

Team USA is going to feature incredible forward talents such as both Matthew and Brady Tkachuk, Jack Eichel, and Auston Matthews. Sorry, Max Willman, there just won’t be room.

On the blue line, the competition becomes even more stiff. Jack’s brother, Quinn Hughes, is undoubtedly a lock to make Team USA. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him wear the ‘C’ either. However, Luke Hughes isn’t as much a lock as one might think.

Luke will certainly be invited, but he’s going to have to prove he should be on the roster over fellow breakout rookie defenseman, Brock Faber, as well as a plethora of talented American-born defensemen. Those names include Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoy, John Carlson, and Zach Werenski, just to name a few.

Team Sweden

Sweden Lock: Jesper Bratt

Sweden Invite: Alexander Holtz

At this point, you can count on one hand how many Swedes are higher than Jesper Bratt in the scoring race. It’s three.

Elias Pettersson, William Nylander, and Filip Forsberg. That’s it.

Bratt has proven to this point that he’s an all-star and all-world talent. He’ll certainly be featured in Sweden’s top six and could potentially play alongside another elite center in Pettersson. That would certainly be fun to watch. Although, maybe not as fun as Jack. Other locks for Sweden in the forward group aside from the aforementioned are Mika Zibanajad and perhaps Elias Lindholm.

Alexander Holtz, however, isn’t a lock. But, he has a real chance. There are a lot of serviceable Swedes in the NHL. However, if Holtz takes the right steps forward in his development, there’s little doubt Sweden will want his elite shot in their lineup. Holtz will need to prove he’s just as responsible as players such as Adrian Kempe and William Karlsson. If he does, then you could certainly see Holtz sporting the yellow and blue in Milan.

Team Finland

Finland Invite: Erik Haula

Finland has done an excellent job producing NHLers for a long time now. For the Devils, Erik Haula has been an excellent addition. Haula does a little bit of everything. He’s a responsible two-way center who can score, defend outside the offensive zone, apply pressure well on the forecheck, and can be utilized on both special teams units.

Haula is currently ninth in the Finnish scoring race and it’s easy to even imagine a situation where he’s a lock for Finland’s lineup. However, Haula will be in his age-34 season by Feb. 2026 and it’s fair to wonder if forwards such as Anton Lundell and Juuso Pärssinen jump over Haula on the depth chart. Regardless, it’d be a surprise to see Haula not on Team Finland.

Team Switzerland

Switzerland Locks: Nico Hischier, Timo Meier, Jonas Siegenthaler, Akira Schmid

For the simple fact that the Devils basically are Team Switzerland, all of their Swiss players are locks to make the roster.

Starting in net, Akira Schmid might not be performing his best this season, however, there’s not another Swiss-born goaltender in the NHL right now, and perhaps not a better one in the world at this time. For that, he’ll tend the Swiss net.

Up front, Nico Hischier and Timo Meier will be looked at to lead the way. They’ll likely be joined by fellow NHLers Kevin Fiala, Nino Niederreiter, and Pius Suter.

On the blue line, Jonas Siegenthaler will be one of the more established Swiss defensemen. He’ll join Roman Josi and J.J. Moser.

Team Czech Republic

Czech Locks: Ondrej Palat

Czech Invite: Tomas Nosek

The Czech Republic is represented in the NHL, however, the depth falls off quickly after Pastrnak, Hertl, and Martin Necas. Former Devil Pavel Zacha is probably a lock as well, but current Devil Ondrej Palat should be one of the Czech leaders.

Palat’s scored six goals and 16 points this season in 37 games. He’s not going to provide the offense Pastrnak does, however, anyone who plays with Palat tends to make it known they enjoy playing on his line.

That’s because Palat does a lot of the little things such as winning puck battles that make life easier for his linemates.

Tomas Nosek is likely to be invited, too. The Czechs know they won’t be able to win with skill alone. They’ll need some defensive-minded forwards and Nosek fits the bill.

In net, unless Vitek Vanecek drastically improves, Czech goaltenders Petr Mrazek, Karel Vejmelka, and the young Lukas Dostal may be more likely to make the roster.

(Unqualified) Team Slovakia

Slovakia Lock: Simon Nemec

Slovakia has yet to qualify for the 2026 Winter Olympics. However, if they do, Simon Nemec will man their blue line.

Nemec is one of three Slovakian-born defensemen in the NHL today. The other two are Martin Fehervary and Erik Cernak.

The Devils’ rookie defenseman has been a revelation this year. In two seasons from now, Nemec should not only be established as one of the best, if not the best Slovakian defenseman in the NHL. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Nemec competing for a Norris, either.

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