Team Canada is the chalk pick on the World Cup of Hockey futures board, but the field has been shuffled ahead of the tournament’s first games in Toronto on Saturday.
Canada, which produces roughly half of all NHL players, has won eight of the 12 Olympic and major international best-on-best tournaments that have been held since 1976. No other nation has won more than once. With stars such as Sidney Crosby and Drew Doughty, Canada is listed at -105 to win the World Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Among a Group A that also consists of Russia (+500), the United States (+600) and the Czech Republic (+2500), Canada should be able to get the top-two finish that ensures a semifinal berth; website PredictionMachine.com has Canada winning the tournament in just under 40 percent of its simulations.
Among the teams in Group A with Canada, Russia and the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin is a mysterious second favorite. The nation’s focus in international hockey is usually on the world championship, which conflicts with the Stanley Cup playoffs. Russia has not medalled in the last three Olympic hockey tournaments.
Team USA is counting on two-way players such as Ryan Kesler to dominate possession and shut down opponents. Reigning NHL MVP and scoring champion Patrick Kane is on hand as the marquee player, but the Americans will need Stanley Cup-winning goalie Jonathan Quick to be great.
The Czech Republic always seems to come into international tournaments – be it the Olympics, worlds, or the Christmastime world junior championship – overshadowed. If goalie Michal Neuvirth is in peak form, they have a chance to surprise a few teams.
The movement on the board is in Group B. Team North America is listed at +1200, down from +2000 in July. The team of under-23 talents such as Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Aaron Ekblad and Nathan MacKinnon scored 13 goals in three pre-competition games, even though McDavid was not on the scoresheet.
Sweden, which typically contends thanks to having New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, is listed at +600. Finland’s prop has come down to +1100, from +1400 in July. Nashville Predators G Pekka Rinne has the potential to steal games. Finland was the bronze medallist in the last two Olympics. The group also includes Team Europe at +3300.
The top two teams in each group advance to the cross-over semifinals on September 24 and 25. The best-of-three final begins September 27.