Yesterday, Denmark announced their 26-man roster for the Olympic qualification tournament to be held in Minsk, Belarus from September 1–4.
The roster will be cut to 23 before the tournament, and there are currently four goaltenders, but Frederik Andersen is not just the best of the bunch, he's now the highest paid Dane to ever play in the NHL. The team will want him there.
The roster includes every player who is or has been in the NHL and is captained by the New York Islanders' pending UFA Frans Nielsen. Calder Cup champion hero Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Lake Erie Monsters is also on the roster, as are four members of Jokerit Helsinki of the KHL.
At a time when the NHL is cooling right off on Olympic participation, the Danes are very hot to win this tournament and claim one of the last three spots for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Denmark is sending the best team they have ever put on the ice for any tournament, and Andersen has to be seen as a key piece to taking a victory.
Standing in the way of the Danes, currently ranked 15th, are Belarus (ninth), Slovenia (14th) and Poland (22nd).
It will be no easy task, and we have the utmost respect for opponents. We must meet a Belarusian team with 15,000 spectators in the back and a huge pressure of expectations, a Slovenian crew who always act wisely and snatched "our" place at the Olympics in 2014 and a Polish team on the way up. It will not be many years before we see them in the A group. I guarantee that the task will not be taken lightly, says [General Manager] Kim Pedersen.
The NHL have their own tournament to promote and it starts up just as this four team, round robin affair in Minsk winds down.
Andersen is one of three goaltenders on Team Europe, and their first game at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto is September 17. The team will hold a camp in Montréal prior to the tournament, and they play exhibition games on September 8, 11 and 14.
With Jaroslav Halak and Tomas Greiss sharing the goalie job for this team, Andersen is not the runaway star in the crease like he is for his national team.
Despite that, NHL General Managers are not necessarily going to be happy with the Danish players adding three serious games in Minsk to their pre-season schedule. And that is also one of the reasons the NHL has cooled on the Olympics. The problem is, a lot of players are still hot for it.
The last time Andersen played for his country was in a similar tournament in 2013, where he played in two games, giving up only two goals and posting a .960 save percentage, but Slovenia won it and went to Sochi.
If Andersen helps the best Danish team ever to fulfil their dream this September, there's a good chance he'll never get to go to the Olympics himself to live it.