Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh Shit! The IIHF World Championship Starts This Week

With all of the talk about the World Cup of Hockey coming in the Fall, I had almost forgotten about the World Championships that take place alongside the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

We got FUCKED by the NHL playoffs in terms of gambling (betting on Chicago, Los Angeles, and Florida to win was not smart), and with Boston and Philly both eliminated at this point, we fall somewhere between "a casual interest" and "I can't stand any of these teams."

So, we're on to international hockey. Granted, there will be a LOT of big names missing from the Worlds. But there will also be a lot of big names (and younger guys) present, so it'll still be entertaining and we can hopefully win some money. Here are some notable odds to win the whole thing:

  • Russia and Canada are +200
  • Finland is +500 and Sweden is +550
  • USA is +900
  • Czech Republic is +1200
  • Everyone else is Leicester Or Worse Odds: Switzerland, Slovakia, Norway, Belarus, Latvia, Germany, France, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Hungary

Let's look at some notable players who are actually going to be playing for these teams via the IIHF website (note: as NHL teams are eliminated, more players can fly to Prague to join their national squads, so we'll look at some possibilities there too):

Russia (+200), Group A

Forwards: Burmistrov, Datsyuk, Kalinin, Radulov, Tikhonov, Yakupov
Defensemen: Marchenko, Yemelin, Zaitsev
Goalies: Varlamov, Bobrovski

One player to watch for: I'm going to cheat here on the first team and say either Alex Ovechkin or Evgeni Malkin, for obvious reasons. They're the two best Russian players in the world. One of them will be eliminated before pool play ends at the World (they're playing head-to-head right now), so Russia will get a big bump on offense pretty early on.

Canada (+200), Group B

Forwards: Domi, Duchene, Hall, Marchand, McDavid, O'Reilly, Perry, Scheifele
Defensemen: Cody Ceci? Morgan Reilly? Chris Tanev?
Goalies: Cam Talbot?

One player to watch for: The rest of the actual Team Canada, because there are about three dozen elite players that are not currently registered to play in this tournament. Especially on the back end, this team could really use some reinforcements if they want to have a chance.

Finland (+500), Group B

Forwards: Aho, Barkov, Jokinen, Koivu, Komarov, Laine, Rantanen
Defensemen: Nobody that I have ever heard of
Goalies: The Other Niklas Backstrom

One player to watch for: Olli Maata. Depending on when the Penguins get eliminated (and whether or not Brooks Orpik cheapshotted him all the way to death), Maata's presence on the blueline would really help a Finland team that basically is lacking any sort of all-world talent on defense.

Sweden (+550), Group A

Forwards: Backlund, Nyquist
Defensemen: Gustafsson
Goalies: Markstrom, Fasth

One player to watch for: Narrowing this list down to just one player is pretty damn near impossible. In goal, the big name is Henrik Lundqvist. On the blueline, the team could clearly use players like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Erik Karlsson (and Niklas Hjalmarsson and Victor Hedman). And there are so many forwards missing from the current group that I'm just going to bullet some last names: Eriksson, Forsberg, Landeskog, Sedin, Sedin, Steen, Zetterberg.

But the real one player to watch for is Nicklas Backstrom, who could be encouraged to play if fellow Washington Capital Ovechkin decides to suit up for Russia when the Caps are knocked out.

USA (+900), Group B

Forwards: Connor, Foligno, Glendening, Larkin, Matthews, Vatrano
Defensemen: Hanifin, McCabe, Skjei, Chris Wideman
Goalies: Condon, Demko, Kinkaid

One player to watch for: There are certainly some more established names in goal that will be available, but the real weakness in this lineup is in the top six. Matthews and Larkin need no introduction, and it will be fun to watch them compared to Finland's Laine line. The obvious player to look out for, depending on how the NHL playoffs break, is clearly American Hero TJ Oshie. He has a kid though, so I'd go a little younger and put Derek Stepan in this spot.

Czech Republic (+1200), Group A

Forwards: Pastrnak, Plenakec, Sekac
Defensemen: Nobody that I've ever heard of, but they have a guy named Michal Jordan
Goalies: Nobody that I have ever heard of

One player to watch for: With the rest of these squads, there are at least a dozen players that could immediately make the team better if they decided to fly to Prague. The home team is no different. The three-headed goalie that we're expecting for the World Cup (Neuvirth-Pavelec-Mrazek) are all missing, as are the top three defensemen (Gudas, Polak, Sustr). And up front, it's nice for the to have Pastrnak and Plekanec, but they could clearly benefit from having names like  Krejci, Voracek, Jagr, Palat, and Hertl in the lineup. I could see the +1200 being a value play just in case one or two of those guys decide to fly home and lace up their skates.

The action kicks off this Friday at 9:15am, when Sweden plays Latvia and the United States plays Canada.

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