The absence of NHL stars has obviously affected everybody’s Winter Olympics 2022 Ice Hockey predictions and is also reflected in our power rankings.
There will still be a whole host of proven performers and hot prospects on show, though, so we’re still expecting plenty of thrills and spills in the Beijing gold rush.
Here’s how the revamped squads feature in our ratings, with their Winter Olympics 2022 Ice Hockey odds:
1. ROC @ 2.5
Seven players who won gold in PyeongChang four years ago return for the defending champions. A 25-man roster has been selected from nine Kontinental Hockey League clubs, including Vadim Shipachyov, the top scorer in that competition. Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Gusev, Nikita Nesterov and Slava Voynov are among their squad members with NHL experience. Gusev was voted the best forward in 2018 and scored four points in the final when Germany were edged out 4-3 in overtime. Vadim Shipachyov has been prolific for Dynamo Moscow in the KHL, while youngsters Kirill Marchenko, Dmitri Voronkov, Arseni Gritsyuk and Alexander Nikishin look sure-fire future NHL aces.
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2. FINLAND @ 5.5
NHL stars such as Aleksander Barkov and Sebastian Aho may be absent but Finland has been a conveyor belt for top players and the national team always performs with energy and enthusiasm. Prior to finishing sixth in South Korea, the flying Finns had made the podium at six of the previous eight Games, collecting two silvers and four bronze. Gold and silver at the last two World Championships also highlights their strength in depth. Jukka Jalonen has gone for experience, with 15 players aged 30 or over and the youngest being 26.
3. SWEDEN @ 6.0
Winners in 1994 and 2006, Sweden were beaten finalists in Sochi and will look to improve on fifth place last time around. Former NHL winger Johan Garpenlov has put together an exciting team from the Swedish Hockey League, the KHL and Switzerland’s National League. Centre Marcus Kruger has over 500 NHL games to his credit, winning two Stanley Cup titles with the Chicago Blackhawks, while Jacob de la Rose featured 242 times for Montreal, Detroit and St Louis. At the other end of the age scale, 22-year-old Pontus Holmberg was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs before being loaned back to Vaxjo Lakers.
4. CANADA @ 7.5
Three bronze medallists from PyeongChang are joined by 37-year-old talisman Eric Staal, who won gold in Vancouver 12 years ago. “I have so many fond memories of competing and winning on home ice,” said the former Hurricanes, Rangers, Wild, Sabres and Canadiens centre. “The Olympics are the pinnacle of sport and I know our entire team is grateful for the opportunity.” Most of the squad have high-level experience in Europe, while teenagers Owen Power and Mason McTavish were the number one and number three picks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
5. CZECH REPUBLIC @ 10.0
The Czechs are definitely one of the teams least affected by the NHL pull-out, with most of their best players based in Europe. After slipping from fourth at the last Olympics to seventh in this year’s World Championships, head coach Filip Pesan said: “We have an experienced team with an average age of around 30. We could have used more leaders in Riga, so this time we’re depending more on experience than on youth.” Seven players return from the 2018 team which lost to Russia in the semis.
6. USA @ 16.0
Team USA only bring one player back from their 2018 campaign in Finland-based veteran Brian O’Neill. Among a mixture of American Hockey League players, college prospects and European pros, seven have played in the NHL. Head coach David Quinn said: “We all had to change gears in December, but we feel very confident with the group we have chosen. We’re excited about the mix. I think it will be a great blend of youth and experience. USA Hockey has never had a deeper player pool.” Matty Beniers, 19, went second in last year’s NHL Entry Draft and Jake Sanderson fifth.
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