The NHL will be returning to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after missing the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Getting the chance to suit up for their countries is a dream come true for many NHL players, so the possibility of going to the 2022 Winter Olympics was included in the latest collective bargaining agreement between the NHLPA and the NHL.
It is still also a possibility the NHL does not go because of the cancellation of games due to COVID-19. However, let’s pretend COVID-19 won’t be an issue. Will Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell be the top pairing for Team Finland in the 2022 Beijing Olympic games? The obvious answer is YES.
Miro Heiskanen Has to be on Team Finland’s roster. It would be a complete disgrace if Miro The Hero, as he’s known by Stars fans, does not make his country’s roster. He will be Finland’s best offensive defenseman despite his ability to play well on both sides of the puck.
Ever since Miro’s first shift in the NHL where he went end to end, made a defensive play in his own zone, and then a nifty little move that made the AAC gasp, he’s been one of the best true two-way defensemen in the NHL.
In the regular season, Miro’s offensive numbers back up his claim as one of the best. He has 31 goals 80 assists for 111 points in just 226 games which is fantastic, but many forget his defensive prowess and his ability to play big minutes. During the Stars win streak, we have seen what Miro can do to some of the best players in the world including Connor McDavid.
He was a huge catalyst as to why McDavid was held off the scoresheet in Dallas 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. That game ended McDavid’s 17 game point-scoring streak which is still insane by the way! For the Dallas Stars this season, Miro has averaged 24 minutes and 43 seconds per game which is a minute and a half longer than his first season in the NHL.
However, I think the biggest takeaway is his ability to be a difference-maker in the biggest games. We saw in the 2020 bubble playoffs how much Miro means to the Dallas Stars. In the Stars run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, Miro had six goals and 20 assists for 26 points over the 27 game playoff run. Not to mention, the 22 year old averaged 25 minutes and 58 seconds a game. That is insane! It’s easy to say Miro will make Team Finland.
The 27 year old from Vantaa, Finland has been a staple on the Dallas blue line since he broke into the league in the 2016-2017 season, but for a different reason. He won’t provide you with the points that Miro Heiskanen, but 99.99% of the time, he will not make a mistake in the defensive zone. He is first and foremost a defensive defenseman who can log big minutes like Heiskanen. Like Miro, Esa HAS to be on Team Finland when the Olympic roster for Finland is announced
Esa Lindell does not have a ton of stats to back up how good he really is, but what he does have going for him is the eye test. You really have to watch him on the ice to understand how much he flourishes as the stay-at-home defenseman. It seems silly to say this, but during a normal game, you don’t really notice him which is a good thing!
It means he’s doing his job and not making big mistakes. Yes, the league is heading in the direction where you see more offensive-minded, puck-moving defensemen, but never underestimate Esa Lindell and what he can do for you defensively especially on the penalty kill.
So with the two-way minded Miro Heiskanen and the defensively-minded Esa Lindell, they most definitely will be the top pairing for Finland at the Winter Olympics. It will be very hard for me not to root for Finland with Miro and Lindell (except when they play the United States of course). And it looks like Hintz and possibly even Kiviranta make Team Finland? Stay tuned to learn more about the Stars players playing in the 2022 Winter Olympics.