Team Canada is the online betting favorite to win its third consecutive and 27th overall International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship gold medal, while the United States rounds up the top six sportsbook candidates.
The Canadiens will not have their captain that led them to back-to-back IIHF world hockey championship gold medal wins, but centers Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buffalo Sabres lead the five returning players from 2016. Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche has committed as well, while Claude Giroux will assume the mantle of captain, a role he has fulfilled with the Philadelphia Flyers for the past five seasons in the NHL.
The Eurasian country is the most successful in the history of this competition with 27 gold medals – one more than Canada, though only five of those medals have been won as Russia; the remaining were won under the Hammer & Sickle banner of the former Soviet Union. The Russians have a streak of their own going on, medaling out in three years in a row – beautiful gold in 2014, so-so silver in 2015, and shameful bronze in 2016. But if we know the Russians – and we don’t – and they won’t settle for anything less than a return to the top.
The Swedes have not won the gold medal since 2013 and in fact have only won it nine times, but Team Sweden is always an online betting contender if not an odds-on favorite. The 2017 squad is led by Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson – whose NHL teams are currently tangled up in playoff battle – and boasts of a quick and skillful roster including Gabriel Landeskog, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman and William Nylander.
The Finns have won the gold medal twice (1995 and 2011) and have been runners-up in two of the last three editions of the IIHF World Championship – in fact, team Finland has lost the finals to Canada on two different occasions. What better way to exact a measure of revenge than preventing the Canadians from pulling a three-peat? Philadelphia Flyers centre Valtteri Filppula is expected to be a key player for Finland.
Not quite unlike Russia, the Czech Republic won half of its 12 gold medals as Czechoslovakia. The Czechs last won the world championship in 2010, and made the podium for the last time so far in 2012 when they won the second of back-to-back bronze medals.
Being one of the four major leagues in the U.S., a neophyte would expect the American team to be another powerhouse. However, the USA is even more backwards in the world hockey stage than it is in the world baseball landscape – in which they’re finally starting to catch up, as evidence by their first World Baseball Classic win earlier this year. ‘Merica is neither the best nor worst historically speaking, but two bronzes in the past four years is hardly anything to write home about. Team USA won its second and heretofore last gold medal in 1960. In online betting terms, the U.S. winning the 2017 IIHF world championship would a textbook upset.