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Gibson, Hellebuyck favored over Campbell for U.S. Olympic team

November 17, 2021, 7:06 PM ET [4 Comments]
Kevin Allen
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Toronto’s Jack Campbell has yielded one goal over his last three games. He boasts a 1.68 goals-against average. His story is a feel-good tale. He’s 29 and finally receiving his chance to be a full-time No. 1 netminder.

He’s thriving with the opportunity. Couldn’t happen to a better person, a nicer guy.

Really.

It’s easy to move this story forward and project Campbell, from Port Huron, Michigan, becoming one of USA’s three goaltenders for the 2022 Olympic Games in China.

But before we take that leap, let’s review how the Olympic selection process usually unfolds and how it works this year.

First, countries had to submit a 55-person preliminary roster. Maybe Campbell isn’t even on that roster. The roster isn't made public. Ten American goalies are currently playing regularly for NHL teams. Where would Campbell have been ranked at the start of the season? Even if Campbell isn’t on the preliminary roster, there must be a way to make changes to that roster, although I can’t imagine it is a simple process. There’s always pre-Olympic drug testing that goes along with preliminary rosters.

Second, traditionally the Americans have considered body of work, international experience and current performance level in picking their Olympic goalies.

Based on that criteria, we can project Anaheim’s John Gibson and Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck as the favorites to be selected.

Even though Gibson has played for a poor team, he has always been considered one of the NHL’s top goalies. He has a career .917 save percentage playing for the Ducks. Hellebuyck has won a Vezina Trophy in Winnipeg and was runner-up once.

More importantly, both Gibson and Hellebuyck helped USA win a bronze medals at the World Championships. In 2015, Hellebuyck turned in one of the greatest international performances ever by an American goalie when he went 7-1 with a 1.37 goals-against and .948 to lead the Americans to the medal. Campbell was his backup at that tournament with a 3.50 goals-against average.

Gibson won his World Championship bronze in 2013 with a 1.56 goals-against average.

Hellebuyck also has a career . 921 NHL playoff save percentage.

Campbell has played 100 NHL games and Gibson has played 335 and Hellebuyck 326. Campbell is a year older than both Gibson and Hellebuyck.

If Hellebuyck and Gibson are the two favorites, then the next question would be whether Campbell would want to be the No. 3 goalie. Would the Maple Leafs want him to go?

With Petr Mrazek hurt, Campbell is probably going to play more game than was originally planned. The Maple Leafs, and maybe Campbell himself, may prefer to take advantage of the rest during the Olympic break.

The rest issue is always in play for the Olympics selection process. That’s why younger goalies are often picked to be the No. 3 goalie. Coming into the season, Thatcher Demko and Spencer Knight are young goalies mentioned as the possible No. 3 goalie. Jeremy Swayman seems to be stealing the net in Boston. Maybe he’s in the mix.

Don’t forget that Jonathan Quick is also out there and playing well thus far this season. He was a U.S. Olympic goalie in 2014.

But maybe Campbell wants to play for the USA. He led the USA to an Under-18 World Championship and World Junior Championship. Maybe he’s thinking about playing his way on that Olympic squad.

If Gibson and Hellebuyck stay healthy, it would take a memorable couple of months for Campbell to move past them.

However, if Campbell still boasts a 1.68 goals-against average next month, you can count on the U.S. selection committee having a meaningful discussion about his candidacy. A hot goalie can never be dismissed in a short tournament.
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