With the Winter Olympics nearly a week in, one of the more anticipated events of the games is about to hit full swing. Men’s hockey has already seen all of Group C play, but the remaining teams will begin their preliminary games in the upcoming days. There is still time to consider the odds for each team and who might bring home gold once the tournament is over. Here is a look at how some of the top teams stand.
Russia : 9/5
If having 9/5 odds, which happens to be the same as the defending gold medal champions, isn’t enough, imagine the pressure that is on the shoulders of Russia in 2014. The Russians have failed to medal in either of the last two Olympics and the last time they reached the podium was for a bronze in 2002. However, with Alexander Ovechkin, who is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world, on the team, the expectations are inanely high this year. The Russians also have a bevy of other NHL stars, who will all look to not just medal, but win gold in front of their home country, much like Canada did in 2010.
If you like putting your money on the least likely team to win, then Slovenia is where you should place your bets. The Slovenians have the lowest odds in the tournament and also sit in a tough Group A that will be hard enough to advance from. This is the first appearance in the Olympics for the Slovenians, so there is the potential to ride that moral momentum. However, without any NHL stars, this will be a huge battle for Slovenia. Their first game is against Russia, which might not make things any better for them.
Slovakia : 25/1
Slovakia has never medaled in the Olympics, though this is their fifth consecutive appearance since making their first Games in 1994. Slovakia is led by the 6’9” defender and team captain, Zdeno Chara, who plays for the Boston Bruins of the NHL. Chara has championship experience from his Stanley Cup run with said Bruins. However, Slovakia is in the tricky position of being the third-ranked team in this group, behind Russia and the USA.
The American’s won Bronze in 2010 and look to have an even better showing with more experience in 2014. This team, like Canada, is littered with NHL players who would love nothing more than to head home with a gold medal draped around their neck. Zach Parise is the captain, and plays for his hometown Minnesota Wild. The key for the Americans could be who is playing between the pipes. In 2010, Ryan Miller made a name for himself with a stellar performance. This year, Miller, Jonathon Quick and Jimmy Howard will all look to defend the goal and give the American’s a shot to once again medal.
Canada : 9/5
The winners of the 2010 Games, Canada returns to the ice in 2014 looking for consecutive golds. Canada is playing in Group B, where there competition will include Austria, Finland and Norway. Their opening game will be against the Norwegians, followed by Austria and then Finland. Led by a host of NHL All-Stars, including quite possibly the world top player Sidney Crosby, we could be looking at a collision course for Russia and Canada for gold in Sochi.
If you are looking for an underdog with huge potential returns, Austria is the place to put your money. As mentioned, the Austrians find themselves in Group B, and they may have a hard enough time just getting out of the preliminary rounds. Thomas Vanek of the New York Islanders is the only players on this team who is in the NHL. The Austrians have also never won a medal in hockey at the Winter Olympics.
Finland : 12/1
Finland is a long shot, but they aren’t completely out of the picture. At 12/1 odds, they have a chance of at least playing for a medal and hoping for some veteran stars to lead them when they need it. The most recognizable player on this Finish team may be Teemu Selanne, who is the captain and has been in the NHL for almost two decades. He was part of Finland’s bronze medal campaigns in 2010 and 1998, as well as their silver medal win in 2006. Finland has plenty of experience that will help them in the tournament.
Norway : 200/1
Norway placed 10th in 2010, and it will take plenty of effort to be able to top that mark this year. In the same grouping as Finland and Canada, the Norwegians will need a huge upset over one of those teams for a chance to advance. This team also has no NHL players on their squad, though they do have a few players who are on MODO, which is a top team in the Swedish Hockey League.
Sweden : 9/2
Group C has already gotten underway and the Swedes proved why they are a favorite to medal in this years tournament. Their 4-2 win over Czech Republic was just the right foot to get off on, especially considering Czech may be the second best team in Group C. Sweden has massive amounts of international talent, which is why they boast the number one IIHF ranking in the world right now. Although they failed to medal in 2010, they won gold in 2006. Erik Karlsson had both goals in the opening game for Sweden, which is a great foot to get off on if you are looking to be the MVP of the tournament.
Czech Republic: 10/1
Despite their initial shutout loss to Sweden, Czech Republic still looks favorable to come out of Group C and make a medal run. The good part is that they were exposed in the 2-0 loss and now they know what they need to improve upon. In 2006 the Czech’s earned bronze and their highest placing was gold in 1998. This year, a variety of international and NHL stars will look to help Czech get out of Group C and make a podium run. If you are looking for a feel good story in this tournament, consider rooting for Jaromir Jagar. At 41, this is Jagar’s fourth Olympic games. He was instrumental in the 1998 gold medal win, which helped him become the face of men’s hockey for Czech.
Switzerland : 25/1
The Swiss men already have momentum on their side after winning their opening game against Latvia. However, Switzerland hasn’t seen the podium in men’s hockey since 1948, a drought which they’ll hope ends this year. At 25/1, there is potential for them to get out of group play. This is especially true after winning their first game. However, they’ll need an upset over either Sweden or Czech, or some other sort of miracle, for it to happen. Switzerland has two NHL players with Nino Niederreiter (Minnesota) and Roman Josi (Nashville).
Latvia : 500/1
After losing game one of the preliminary round, the Latvians have a huge uphill battle that likely won’t end with advancement. They also sit at 500/1 odds, so they were a long shot to begin with. This is the fifth appearance in the Olympics for the Latvians, though they have never won a medal. Furthermore, they also have a variety of professional players on their team, though none of them are in t