World Cup of Hockey 2016: Odds for Each Team to Win the Tournament
There will be hockey in less than a month. Fiercely played hockey, with the best players in the world playing for their country's honor.
If the original news went by without being noticed, here it is again: The World Cup of Hockey takes place from Sept. 17-29 (if necessary, the third game in the best-of-three final will be played on Oct. 1) in Toronto, with eight teams competing for a trophy that unfortunately looks like a piece of glassware made by an inebriated craftsman.
But, hey, who cares what the trophy looks like? These are bragging rights for a country to call itself the best in hockey.
Yes, yes, there are too many international tournaments now, and the resumption of the World Cup (it hasn't been played in this format since 2004) runs the risk of indifference from a larger sporting public that usually doesn't start to notice hockey until the first snowfall.
With the NHL's participation in the next Winter Olympics still looking iffy, the World Cup is the preferred mechanism by which commissioner Gary Bettman and the league's 30 owners, not to mention Donald Fehr and the NHL Players' Association, get to show off their top players to the world—and collect the gate receipts themselves.
Under the Olympic format, the NHL and its players get no money out of the deal. This is essentially the same deal as the Olympics, though, with the best countries featuring their best players.
One of the fun wrinkles to this tournament will be the 24-and-under North America team, which will be made up of the best young players from the U.S. and Canada. Let's call it the "Kid's Table" team, and it figures to give the grownups a fierce battle for the crooked vase.
Let's take an early peek at the eight teams and their early odds of winning this tournament. These are my odds, so if there are any disagreements, let's hear them.
On with the countdown, ranked from the squad with the worst chances to the one with the best.
Czech Republic: 25-1
First off, it just doesn't seem right that the ageless Jaromir Jagr was left off the Czech team. Come on, he's still productive and a living legend. Let him play.
It's hard to see how the Czechs can win, especially with mostly a collection of older veterans up front. Gone are the days, too, when Dominik Hasek could win 1-0 games in international competition for his country.
David Krejci will need to have an unbelievable tournament for the Czechs to have any chance.
Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars; Michael Frolik, Calgary Flames; Martin Hanzal, Arizona Coyotes; Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars; Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks; Dmitrij Jaskin, St. Louis Blues; David Krejci, Boston Bruins; Milan Michalek, Toronto Maple Leafs; Ondrej Palat, Tampa Bay Lightning; David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins; Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens; Vladimir Sobotka, Avangard Omsk (KHL); Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Radko Gudas, Philadelphia Flyers; Michal Jordan, Carolina Hurricanes; Michal Kempny, Chicago Blackhawks; Zbynek Michalek, Arizona Coyotes; Jakub Nakladal, unrestricted free agent; Roman Polak, Toronto Maple Leafs; Andrej Sustr, Tampa Bay Lightning
The Finns always play with great esprit de corps in international competition, so underestimate them at your peril.
With Aleksander Barkov as your No. 1 center and Tuukka Rask and Pekka Rinne in net, great things are possible. But the defense is a question mark for sure.
While it's a nice team, it's a stretch to think it'll emerge from Toronto as a champion.
Sebastian Aho, Karpat (Liiga); Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers; Joonas Donskoi, San Jose Sharks; Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning; Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild; Erik Haula, Minnesota Wild; Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild; Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs; Lauri Korpikoski, UFA; Patrik Laine, Tappara (Liiga); Jori Lehtera, St. Louis Blues; Teuvo Teravainen, Carolina Hurricanes
Jyrki Jokipakka, Calgary Flames; Sami Lepisto, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL); Esa Lindell, Dallas Stars; Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh Penguins; Ville Pokka, Chicago Blackhawks; Rasmus Ristolainen, Buffalo Sabres; Sami Vatanen, Anaheim Ducks
There is just too much age on this roster to believe it can seriously compete for the championship. Sure, there are plenty of big names still, led by the Sedin twins, Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Lundqvist in goal. But they and others here are well into their 30s.
The Swedes haven't produced the kind of dynamic young stars that other countries have in recent years. Hockey is still huge there, and any team with Erik Karlsson skating the puck from the back end figures to be entertaining.
But this team isn't the powerhouse of old, when Peter Forsberg dominated the world.
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals; Loui Eriksson, Vancouver Canucks; Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators; Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins; Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks; Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche; Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks; Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks; Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks; Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche; Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues; Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators; Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks; Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators; Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings; Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Team Europe: 12-1
This team is built upon the same concept as Team North America, a place for others to find a home they otherwise might not have gotten. But unlike Team North America, this team is composed mostly of older veterans.
Anze Kopitar figures to be the team leader, along with Zdeno Chara and Roman Josi. There's a lot of skill here but not quite the depth of the other top countries.
It will be interesting to see who emerges as the No. 1 goalie. Playing in front of Toronto fans, new Maple Leaf Frederik Andersen will draw lots of scrutiny.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Philadelphia Flyers (France); Mikkel Boedker, San Jose Sharks (Denmark);Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Germany); Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings (Slovakia); Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks (Denmark); Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks (Slovakia); Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Slovenia); Nino Niederreiter, Minnesota Wild (Switzerland); Frans Nielsen, Detroit Red Wings (Denmark); Tobias Rieder, Arizona Coyotes (Germany); Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings (Slovakia); Thomas Vanek, Detroit Red Wings (Austria); Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers (Norway)
Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (Slovakia); Christian Ehrhoff, UFA (Germany); Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Switzerland); Dennis Seidenberg, UFA (Germany); Andrej Sekera, Edmonton Oilers (Slovakia); Luca Sbisa, Vancouver Canucks (Switzerland); Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers (Switzerland)
You have to believe the Russians will come into this tournament looking to atone for their embarrassing home showing in Sochi two years ago.
With Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Evgeni Malkin and Vladimir Tarasenko up front, to mention a few, the Russians are well stocked with top offensive talent. The back end looks more questionable, along with the goaltending.
The Russians will have to score a lot of goals to win, but that could happen.
Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks; Evgeny Dadonov, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL); Pavel Datsyuk, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL); Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning; Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders; Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks; Vadim Shipachyov, SKA Saint Petersburg (KHL); Ivan Telegin, CSKA Moscow (KHL); Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens; Dmitry Kulikov, Buffalo Sabres; Alexey Marchenko, Detroit Red Wings; Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens; Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals; Nikita Zaitsev, Toronto Maple Leafs
United States: 8-1
Team USA general manager Dean Lombardi seemed to value size and speed for his team, which might explain why Phil Kessel—despite winning a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh this year—was a notable omission.
As always, the Americans figure to be a step behind other top teams offensively. There just aren't the dynamic centers featured on Canada and Team North America. But there is definitely some good goaltending in Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider.
Still, the lack of high-end talent up front figures to be the Americans' undoing, with Patrick Kane being a notable exception.
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings; David Backes, Boston Bruins; Brandon Dubinsky, Columbus Blue Jackets; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks; Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks; T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals; Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens; Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils; Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild; Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks; Derek Stepan, New York Rangers; James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs; Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets; John Carlson, Washington Capitals; Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche; Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets; Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers; Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Team North America: 4-1
Everybody is excited to see what this team will look like on the ice. Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, Johnny Gaudreau? Yeah, there will be some speed on this team.
Defensively, it looks like a good, strong, two-way group led by Aaron Ekblad.
The question mark is in goal. Is John Gibson, Connor Hellebuyck or Matt Murray up to the task of beating the world's best in a tournament?
This club may need to score a lot of goals to win, but with these young speedsters, that might not be a problem.
Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers; Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres; Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames; Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs; Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; J.T. Miller, New York Rangers; Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers; Brandon Saad, Columbus Blue Jackets; Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers; Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets; Ryan Murray, Columbus Blue Jackets; Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues; Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs; Jacob Trouba, Winnipeg Jets
As long as goalie Carey Price is healthy—and according to Team Canada GM Doug Armstrong (via Mark Spector of Sportnet.ca), he is—Canada has to be the top favorite to win.
Would it make more sense to have a guy such as P.K. Subban instead of Jake Muzzin? On a normal team, yes. But Canada is loaded with offensive D-men already, with Drew Doughty, Brent Burns, Alex Pietrangelo and Duncan Keith.
Canadian teams have never lacked for star power up front, but it's been with defense and goaltending that they won gold in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014. This team is again loaded there, and everywhere.
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars; Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins; Jeff Carter, Los Angeles Kings; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche; Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers; Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins; Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; John Tavares, New York Islanders; Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks; Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles Kings; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues; Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks; Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens.