For many years, commissioner Gary Bettman’s pre-Stanley Cup Final press conference often involved questions about the league’s lack of participation in best-on-best international hockey. But things are finally shifting.

Led by the NHLPA’s new leader Marty Walsh, the players finally have their wish. And in February 2025, the NHL will host a preview of what’s to come. The league is expected to participate in the 2026 and 2030 Winter Olympics while hosting a World Cup every two years in between. Before Game 1 on Saturday, Bettman and the league officially confirmed the upcoming 4 Nations Face-off — a tournament that will replace the 2025 NHL All-Star Game.

Canada, Sweden, Finland and the United States will participate in the face-off played in Boston’s TD Gardens and Montreal’s Bell Centre. Each of the nations will face each other once, with the two best teams then qualifying for the one-game championship. The entire tournament will last nine days with Canada and Sweden opening the tournament in Montreal on Feb. 12. The championship will be played in Boston on Feb. 20.

It’s been far too long. But Avs fans will finally get a chance to see their favorite players participate in best-on-best international hockey. And given the star-studded roster for this golden era of Avalanche hockey, you could very well expect several players at the top of the lineup to all take part in the tournament.

Team Canada: Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Devon Toews

Starting with the most obvious shoe-ins, I’ve paired the Avs’ top defense pair and superstar center together given the fact that outside of health concerns, I can’t possibly see any scenario where all three of them aren’t representing Team Canada in February.

The Canadians are loaded both at center and defense. With Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby leading the way, it’s not difficult to envision a reality where MacKinnon plays on the wing. And on defense, Makar is the top guy. No questions asked. As for Toews? He was one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets for a couple of years but has slowly burst onto the scene as one of Canada’s top-10 blueliners. His chemistry with Makar will land him on spot on the roster.

Team Finland: Mikko Rantanen, Artturi Lehkonen (outside chance: Joel Kiviranta, Justus Annunen)

Similar to the trio for Canada, it’s hard to imagine any scenario where both Mikko Rantanen and Artturi Lehkonen are not locks for Finland’s roster.

Bettman confirmed Saturday that the league chose these four nations specifically because the rosters will consist only of NHL players. Finland had 30 skaters appear in at least 30 games in the NHL last season. Of the group, Mikko Rantanen was far and away the most productive, leading the way in goals (42), assists (62) and points (104). He’ll likely play on the top line with star two-way center Aleksander Barkov.

As for Lehkonen, Colorado’s clutch goalscorer has slowly evolved into one of the best puck-hounds in the league. He was also the most productive Finnish left winger in points per game last season. Lehkonen’s chemistry with Rantanen could very well make him a shoe-in for the third slot on the top line.

We still don’t know if Joel Kiviranta will be a part of the Avs in 2024-25. But he was the 18th most productive Finnish forward in 2023-24. He’s not likely to make the team but could be in the conversation if injuries arise or if he develops a particular role for them.

As for Justus Annunen — Colorado’s backup goalie. It’s hard, right now, to see him making the team. And if he does, he likely won’t play with both Juuse Saros and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen ahead of him on the depth chart, and others like Ville Husso and Kevin Lankinen vying for the third goalie role. It is worth noting that Annunen’s .928 save percentage was the best of all Finnish goalies last season.

Team United States: (Outside chance: Casey Mittelstadt)

Before the Bowen Byram for Casey Mittelstadt swap, there was no chance the Avs would even have an American player on the radar. In past eras, someone like Ross Colton could’ve been a valuable depth piece. But the Americans are loaded with talent now. If everyone’s healthy, you could easily build a roster without Mittelstadt where a Kyle Connor or a Jake Guentzel is the 13th forward.

It doesn’t bode well for Mittelstadt’s chances, but a breakout start to his season might just do the trick.

Team Sweden: Gabriel Landeskog

It’s anybody’s guess if Colorado’s captain Gabriel Landeskog will be available in time for the tournament. But if Landeskog returns early in the season and looks even remotely close to the player he’s always been, then Sweden will call.

Would Landeskog accept the invitation in that scenario? Would the Avs even want him to go? Who knows. A lot could change between now and then. But a healthy Landeskog is among Sweden’s elite talents. It would be quite the story to see Landeskog once again doing his thing for Tre Kronor.