It’s official. After more than a decade hiatus, the world’s top hockey players will be returning to the world’s top athletic competition. And for many hockey fans, that means it’s time for some lineup predictions for the 2026 Olympics.
In a Feb. 2 press conference, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced NHL players will be allowed to participate in the 2026 (and 2030!) Olympics, the first time since Sochi 2014. A best-on-best international tournament has not taken place since 2016 at the World Cup of Hockey.
Canada took gold in men’s hockey in 2014, going back-to-back after beating Sweden 3-0 in the gold medal game. That Canadian team featured stars like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Carey Price, and Drew Doughty.
With a long break since the last Olympics with NHL stars, there are plenty of young hockey stars who have never had a chance to don their country’s colours at an Olympic Games. Without further ado, it’s time for the top countries’ lineup predictions for the 2026 Olympics.
One writer’s note, I’m going to avoid projecting prospects for these rosters unless they look sure to be NHL-level by 2026.
|Kaapo Kakko/ Joakim Kemell
|Joonas Korpisalo/ Kaapo Kähkönen
The Fins are the defending gold medalists from 2022, and they will look strong with these NHL lineup predictions for the 2026 Olympics. The forward group carries some star power with Aho, Rantanen, and Barkov; as well as depth with some solid bottom-six options like Lundell and Hintz.
Defensively, the Dallas Stars pairing of Heiskanen and Lindell will have to carry a lot of the load. With that said, they make up for some of that defensive depth with strong goaltending options. All four goalies listed are capable of stringing together some quality games in a tournament like the Olympics. Suomi looks poised for another medal push as they get their top players back in the lineup.
|Macklin Celebrini/ Adam Fantilli
|Bowen Byram/ Kevin Korchinski
|Devon Levi/ Stuart Skinner
The Canadians are one of the most interesting teams to predict, with an aging crop of stars and some exciting youth coming up as well. I chose to leave Brad Marchand (37 by Olympics) and Steven Stamkos (35 by Olympics) off the list, although if they continue to play well they will be on this team.
I chose to go with a younger forward group, along with Sidney Crosby who will be relied on to win draws and lead the team. Defensively, the team looks solid with a mix of veterans and young guys who are proving themselves in the NHL.
Goalies are an interesting group- Binnington and Hill have the ability to perform in big moments (Stanley Cup winners) while Levi and Skinner will have to continue to prove themselves. All in all, the Canadians have enough impact players to make a serious medal push in 2026.
Team United States
|Logan Cooley/ Cole Caufield
|Brock Faber/ Brady Skjei
Phew. The American roster is looking stacked. And if you want to make the argument it doesn’t work chemistry-wise, fine, but I want to watch both the Tkachuk and Hughes brothers on the ice together all Olympics long. The forward core carries a lot of weight with even the bottom line capable of lighting the lamp at any time.
Defensively, the team is solid. If you can reasonably put a guy like Jacob Trouba on your bottom pairing, you’re doing more than alright. The depth doesn’t stop there. All goalies are starting caliber, and I would argue all three are in the top ten if not top five of all goalies in the NHL. This team is the on-paper gold medal favorite, no questions asked.
|Joel Eriksson Ek
|Leo Carlsson/ Alex Holtz
|Rasmus Sandin/ Simon Edvinsson
|Samuel Ersson/ Filip Gustavsson
Sweden looks strong with solid veterans in these lineup predictions for the 2026 Olympics. The top forward line will have to carry the scoring load, but the bottom six look like they would be able to shut it down if needed. Defensively, veteran stalwarts like Karlsson, Ekholm, and Hedman will be relied on to lead the younger guys coming into the international ranks. Goaltending is solid as Markstrom is putting together another stellar season in the NHL. There would be at least one solid backup option between Ullmark, Ersson, and Gustavsson.
Looking Forward to Puck Drop
These aren’t the only nations lining up to compete for a medal. Russia (if allowed to participate), Czechia, Slovakia, and Germany will all be keen for their shot at a medal as well. International hockey also has a way of surprising us, so don’t count out anyone. It’s exciting to see these lineups on paper, and it will be even more exciting when the puck drops on Italian ice in 2026. Keep checking Area 51 Sports Network for the best sports coverage on the internet.