World Cup of Hockey Betting Part 1: Betting Odds and Predictions 2016

The World Cup of Hockey has begun exhibition games ahead of the tournament’s official start date so that players can get their legs under them before the round-robin stage begins on September 17. The tournament, as usual, will feature eight teams, but there is a significant difference between this edition and previous ones.

Six of the teams are traditional powerhouses (Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Czech Republic), but the tournament organizers felt that there were only two other countries with comparable skill levels. Instead of throwing teams like Germany, Slovakia, or Belarus to the wolves, we have Team North America, which includes players under the age of 23 from the United States and Canada, and Team European Union, which includes players from European countries that aren’t represented in the tournament.

All games will be played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto and will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN 2 beginning with the round-robin on September 17 and continuing through the best-of-three final on September 27. The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout round, with A1 playing B2 and B1 playing A2 in the semi-finals on September 24 and 25. We’ll look at the eight teams in the tournament and give you a rundown of how we think they’ll fare over the next few weeks.

Odds to win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey

  • EVEN Canada
  • 6/1 Sweden
  • USA 6/1
  • 13/2 Russia
  • 7/1 North America
  • 14/1 Finland
  • 33/1 Czech Republic
  • 50/1 for Europe

Canada is in Group A.

When we look at the Canada roster, we can see why they are rated as the tournament’s favorite. They are loaded from top to bottom, with forwards like Sidney Crosby, Taylor Seguin, Jonathan Toews, and Steven Stamkos leading the way, and defensemen like Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, and Brent Burns. Carey Price, Braden Holtby, and Corey Crawford are the best goaltending trio in the tournament, and the team could win gold with any of the three between the pips. Yes, Canada is the favorite, but there’s no reason to take them at even money, so we’ll look elsewhere for our future wager.

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Czech Republic is in Group A.

The Czech Republic already had the tournament’s worst roster. And since training camp began, they’ve lost players like Tomas Hertl, Radko Gudas, and David Krejci, all of whom were expected to play significant minutes. Despite the fact that the majority of the players on the roster have played in the NHL, there isn’t a lot of talent on the roster. We’re not impressed by the goalie trio of Michal Neuvirth, Petr Mrazek, and Ondrej Pavelec. And, with a difficult draw in Group A, we don’t see the Czechs making it past the round-robin stage.

Group A of Team Europe

Team Europe is another team full of NHL players, but their placement in Group A with the United States and Canada suggests they will not advance past the round-robin stage. They have a better top to bottom record than the Czech Republic, despite having the longest shot to win the tournament at 40-1.

Thomas Greiss, Jaroslav Halak, and Philipp Grubauer have all spent time between the pipes in the NHL, but all three are currently backups. Halak is expected to take the field first. And with the defensive unit that Europe has assembled here, he’ll be left out to dry game in and game out. We believe they will finish third in the group with a win over the Czechs, but we don’t expect anything more from Team Europe.

Group A: United States

Despite failing to win a gold medal in these major international tournaments, USA Hockey has made significant progress over the last decade. They have won the World Juniors twice since 2010 (twice as many as Canada), and they have won a medal four times in the last six years (same as Canada).

They lost the gold medal game in both the 2012 Vancouver Olympics and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics to Canada. They’ve also won two medals at the IIHF World Championships in the last four years, and they finally feel like they’re no longer a bother to Canada on the international stage. This year’s roster is loaded, led by Patrick Kane, TJ Oshie, Joe Pavelski, and Zach Parise up front, and guys like Ryan Suter, Jack Johnson, John Carlson, and Dustin Byfuglien on the back end, making it difficult for anyone to generate an offensive push on them.

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They also have Jonathan Quick, Ben Bishop, and Corey Schneider between the pipes, with Quick likely being the No. 1 going into the tournament. We expect the USA to advance past the round-robin stage, and then who knows? They have enough talent to win it all if everything falls into place.

Finland is in Group B

At first glance, Finland does not appear to have the talent to compete with the top teams in this tournament, but they have proven time and again that they are a tough out on the international stage. They don’t have a lot of high-end scoring on their roster, which is typical for them, but they play well as a team, which is how they usually end up with a medal in these things when all is said and done.

Their best chance here will be to slow the game down and rely on their defense, which includes NHL players like Olli Maatta and Sami Vatanen, as well as Sami Lepisto, who played in the league before moving on to the KHL. Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne are a good one-two punch in net, but we don’t think the Fins have enough up front to advance past the round-robin stage this time.

Group B – North America

The young talent on Team North America’s roster is downright nasty. Yes, they are young, but they have some of the best players in the game, regardless of age. Connor McDavid, who would have been selected for Canada, leads superstars like Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel (who would have been selected for USA), Nathan MacKinnon, and Dylan Larkin up front, and a defense that includes Shane Gostisbehere, Seth Jones, Colton Parayko, and Aaron Ekblad could end up being the best unit in the tournament if the spotlight isn’t too bright. Goaltending was thought to be a concern, but with Matt Murray and John Gibson in net, this team has nothing to worry about.

Last season, Gibson went 21-13-3 with a 2.07 GAA and.920 save percentage in 41 games for the Ducks, and all Murray had to do was step in and lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup Championship. Add in the fact that these kids will be hungry to prove that they belong, and we predict that they will be one of the two teams to emerge from Group B and advance to the tournament’s knockout rounds.

Russia is in Group B

On paper, Russia has the most talented forward group at the 2016 World Cup. Big names like Malkin, Ovechkin, Tarasenko, Datsyuk, Panarin, Kucherov, and Kuznetsov will suit up for the Russians, making all four of their lines dangerous whenever they are on the ice. The Russians’ problems will be on the back end, as both the defense and goalies are huge unknowns heading into the tournament.

We don’t think the Russian D will be able to keep the bigger teams in the group off the puck, and you never know what to expect from goaltenders like Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov. Add in the fact that Russia never wins these things and that they occasionally have problems in the locker room, and we’ll probably avoid the Russians once the round robin games begin.

Sweden is in Group B

Just as Russia’s offense may have the best offensive line, Sweden will have the best defensive line. Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have ridiculous talent. But, unlike Russia, they will struggle to score goals. There are some familiar names up front, but the Sedin twins are getting on in years, so young players like Filip Forsberg, Nicklas Backstrom, and Gabriel Landeskog will need to step up big time if Sweden is to win gold.

It doesn’t help that Robin Lehner, Niklas Kronwall, Henrik Zetterberg, and Alexander Steen are all injured and will miss the World Cup. Henrik Lundqvist is a rock in goal, and there’s no doubt he’s good enough to get the team to the semifinals. With Finland, North America, and Russia in Group B, we believe Sweden will do well enough to advance to the semifinals.

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