We don’t know yet whether the NHL and NHLPA will send its players to the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, Korea, but we now know where nine of the 12 countries participating in the tournament will be grouped.
Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Korea
Group B: Russia, USA, Slovakia, Qualifer 3
Group C: Sweden, Finland, Qualifier 1, Qualifier 2
The groups are based on the post-World Championship IIHF rankings, which feature Canada, Russia and Sweden as the top three nations. The final three qualifiers will be determined over three stages of qualification beginning in November.
After talk that they might need to go through qualification, Korea was granted automatic entry despite their No. 23 ranking. Pressure by the IIHF to improve the program was followed by a $20 million investment promise into development by the Korea Ice Hockey Association. They also hired former NHLer Jim Paek as head coach, showing that they were serious about improving.
IIHF president said during Worlds press conference in Prague that the NHL/PA has until Sept. 2016 to decide if they will send players. That deadline also coincides with the start of the revamped World Cup of Hockey.
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