The Olympic men’s hockey tournament won’t have the same pizzazz as it would with NHL participation, but the usual hockey powers are still expected to battle it out for gold - including Canada, which kicks off its Olympic title defence Thursday against Switzerland.
The Canadian side has won the last two Olympic hockey tournaments, and is considered one of the favourites in South Korea despite cobbling its team together from around the world.
Men’s Olympic Hockey Odds and Betting Analysis
It’s no surprise that Canada is an overwhelming favourite in this one – and they have the puckline edge, as well, sitting at -1.5 -155. A whopping 97 percent of Sports Interaction bettors are going with the Canadians, who won all six of their games in Sochi four years ago and allowed just one goal in the elimination round. The Swiss are listed at +265 SU for this one; they were eliminated by Latvia in the first elimination round back at the 2014 Winter Games.
You won’t find any Sidney Crosbys, Connor McDavids or Patrice Bergerons in South Korea, but Canada still has a wealth of experience on its roster. Leading the way up front is former NHL 20-goal scorer Wojtek Wolski, who is joined by one-time No. 3 pick Gilbert Brule, journeymen Mason Raymond and Maxim Lapierre, and a pair of former NHLers now toiling in the Swiss League – Derek Roy and Rene Bourque.
The Canadian defence is far less recognizable, though there are a few faces NHL fans and bettors alike will recognize. Marc-Andre Gragnani appeared in 78 NHL games with four teams, while Stefan Elliott racked up 84 appearances between Colorado, Arizona and Nashville. Former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ben Scrivens is joined in net by ex-New York Islander Kevin Poulin and Justin Peters, who appeared in 83 NHL games.
It’s going to be a tough road for the Swiss, who find themselves matched up with the Canadians, the always-tough Czech Republic and host South Korea in Group A. While a handful of forwards competed in major junior hockey in North America, only two – Cody Almond and Simon Moser – have even appeared in an NHL game. The defence is anchored by Raphael Diaz, who played parts of six seasons in the NHL with Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and the Rangers.
The real upset potential here comes from the advantage the Swiss have in goal. Jonas Hiller is not only the most experienced goaltender in this game – he might be the best in the tournament, having appeared in more than 400 regular-season games and 33 playoff contests with the Anaheim Ducks and Calgary Flames. He’s joined by another former NHL netminder in Tobias Stephan, while Bern SC goaltender Leonardo Genoni serves as the No. 3 option.
Canada vs. Switzerland Prediction
Canada 5, Switzerland 2