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Olympic Men’s Hockey Preview: Ready to ROC

Olympic Men Hockey Games Betting Analysis

Now that the start of the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics is just a week away, here’s a look at how the top contenders will be kicking things off.

Either Canada or the United States has earned a medal in the last three Olympics, and since 1992 Canada has three golds, two silvers and a bronze medal at the Olympics. The U.S. team won the silver medal in 2002 and 2010, falling to Canada in the gold medal game each time.

Olympic Men’s Hockey Preview
Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

Neither Canada (+600) nor the United States (+1500) is favored to win medals, although without current NHL players able to play, these odds are likely to change quite often.

Here is a look at the opening games for the top contenders for the tournament being held in Beijing to help those who bet online navigate through a new-look Olympic hockey experience.

Russian Olympic Committee

The Russian Olympic Committee will face Switzerland in the first game of the tournament and they enter with the best odds at +125 to win the gold medal.

ROC (-450) is a heavy favorite vs. Switzerland according to the Las Vegas odds. Unlike the North American teams who have to dip into the college pool to put together a roster, a good number of the top Russian players do suit up for KHL teams, so it is easy to understand why this team is considered a favorite.

It doesn’t hurt that former NHL players Artem Anisimov, a four-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL, Nikita Gusev, who spent three seasons in the NHL, and former Buffalo Sabres first-round pick Mikhail Grigorenko are among the top forwards for ROC.

Switzerland has already needed to make some roster changes. Joren van Pottelberghe and Sven Senteler are off the team due to Covid-19 . The 24-year-old van Pottelberghe has been one of the top goalies in the Swiss-A league for the last six seasons. He has a 2.24 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 38 games or Biel HC. Senteler, 29, has played for Zug EV since 2015-16 and made his Swiss-A debut with Zurich in 2013.

Goalie Sandro Aeschlimann and forward Calvin Thurkauf have been added to the roster.

Czech Republic

Boston Bruins fans missing the steady and reliable play that David Krejci brought during his time in the NHL might not want to tune into the Czech Republic’s game against Denmark on Feb. 9.

The Czech Republic (-500) is tied with Sweden for the best Olympic betting odds to open the Olympics with a win on the first day of the tournament.

Krejci was a four-time 20-goal scorer with the Bruins but his passing is what really made him so valuable. It didn’t hurt that he went from averaging .76 points per game during the regular season to .79 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He had 23 points in 25 games during Boston’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup title.

For years, Bruins fans wondered why the crafty Krejci couldn’t be paired with elite scoring options on the wing. Now that is playing in Europe, the Bruins have put David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall on the wings of the second line. There is no telling how many points Krejci would have with those two players on his line.

Sweden

The biggest question surrounding Sweden is whether the dominance that the team displays in the World Junior event will carry over into the Olympics, considering how many of the players have previous experience in that event.

COVID-19 has impacted Sweden’s roster as well with defensemen Emil Duse and Erik Gustafsson out of the Olympics.

Forwards Marcus Kruger, Joakim Nordstrom and Lucas Wallmark as well as defensemen Christian Folin and Oscar Fantenberg are familiar names in NHL games.

Sweden’s odds are +450. Sweden (-500) is expected to top Latvia in the final game on the opening day.

Finland

Harri Sateri and Jussi Olkinuora were part of the silver medal-winning team at the 2021 World Championships to give Finland an imposing 1-2 punch in goal. Perhaps that is why they are the No. 2 pick at +400 to claim Olympic gold.

Sateri, who played nine games with the Florida Panthers during the 2017-18 season and spent parts of six seasons in the American Hockey League, has a 2.02 goals-against average with Novosibirsk Sibir in the KHL/ Olkinuora is also playing in the KHL.

Finland opens against Slovakia on Feb. 10.

Canada

Eric Staal, a six-time 30-goal scorer in the NHL, was recently named the team captain for Canada. He will certainly be a player to watch, although more than a few eyes will be on defenseman Owen Power and forward Mason McTavish, the Nos. 1 and 3 picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. Jason Demers  will be a veteran presence on the blue line.

Devon Levi, who is in the midst of a remarkable season at Northeastern with a 1.55 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in 24 games, figures to be the No. 1 goalie for Canada.

Canada could have the toughest opening game among the top contenders, listed at -230 on the moneyline to beat Germany on Feb. 10.

United States

Matty Beniers, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, has 36 points in 28 games for Michigan. Another current Michigan star, Brendan Brisson, is also a forward to keep an eye on. Jake Sanderson, the No. 5 overall pick in 2020 who has 24 points in 21 games at North Dakota, figures to log heavy minutes on the blue line.

Strauss Mann, who has a 2.00 GAA in 16 games with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League, could be the No. 1 goalie.

The U.S. is listed at -800 to roll past China in its opener.

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