Home > Uncategorized > Olympic Predictions: Majority concur Canada will be crowned

Olympic Predictions: Majority concur Canada will be crowned

TODD KOROL/REUTERS Canada’s Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal against the United States in overtime during the men’s hockey gold-medal game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

TODD KOROL/REUTERS
Canada’s Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal against the United States in overtime during the men’s hockey gold-medal game at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Will Crosby be the hero again in Sochi? Will Canada repeat as champions? If these predictions prove correct, it could very well be a case of Olympic deja vu later this month.

Less than 12 hours away from the opening puck-drop for the 2014 Olympic men’s hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia, it seems everybody has their opinion on who will emerge medallists or end up missing the podium. However, not everybody has the same opinion.

Guest blogger Jesse Gill took the time to rank the 12 countries vying for gold, while breaking down each individual roster with statistical and historical analysis.

Five other contributors, including myself, also weighed in with our medal and award predictions.

When the dust settled, four of the six pundits had Canada penciled in for gold, yet two others had Sweden taking home top honours. Read on for the compilation of those efforts and have your say in the poll below:

Jesse Gill
Jesse Gill

GOLD: Canada (Group B)

Canada

Analysis: Canada has lots of prolific scoring on its team with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, John Tavares and Jonathan Toews. Its defensive core anchored by Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty looks to be solid. If there is one weakness with Team Canada, it may be between the pipes. Roberto Luongo and Carey Price both need to play to the level they are capable of for Canada to secure gold, because when they do, they are two of the best in the world. When they are off their games, though, it’s ugly and both have been subjected to torment from their NHL fan bases because of it. On paper, Canada is arguably the best team and as defending gold medallists should be the favourites. Something has to go terribly wrong for this team to not at least bring home a medal. With gold medals in 2002 and 2010, they just have to avoid having a bad Olympics following a gold medal and not repeat the 2006 performance that landed Canada in seventh — its worst ever Olympic finish.

Olympics competed in: 21

Medal Count: 8 Gold, 4 Silver, 2 Bronze (14 Total)

Best Finish: 1st

Worst Finish: 7th

Last Medal: Gold in 2010

Current IIHF World Ranking: 5th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 25

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 11

Expected Top Performer: Sidney Crosby

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

*D Duncan Keith (Chicago Blackhawks) 59-3-45-48-8

D Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis Blues) 57-6-35-41-16

D PK Subban (Montreal Canadiens) 59-8-31-39-61

*D Shea Weber (Nashville Predators) 56-15-23-38-32

D Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis Blues) 57-4-28-32-16

*D Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings) 59-8-22-30-54

D Marc-Édouard Vlasic (San Jose Sharks) 59-4-14-18-20

D Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver Canucks) 58-4-11-15-24

*F Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) 58-28-50-78-34

*F Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) 56-29-38-67-22

F John Tavares (New York Islanders) 59-24-42-66-40

*F Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) 60-30-30-60-50

F Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks) 60-28-30-58-34

F Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay Lightning) 58-25-31-56-6

*F Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) 60-19-36-55-28

*F Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks) 59-23-27-50-16

F Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) 55-19-31-50-17

F Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh Penguins) 58-27-28-55-48

F Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars) 58-22-29-51-34

*F Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) 57-16-22-38-31

F Jeff Carter (Los Angeles Kings) 49-20-17-37-22

*F Rick Nash (New York Rangers) 42-18-9-27-25

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

G Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens) 48-26-17-5-2.33-.925-4

*G Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) 42-19-16-6-2.38-.917-3

G Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes) 49-20-17-9-2.77-.913-2

SILVER: Sweden (Group C)

SwedenAnalysis: The best team after Canada is Sweden, in my opinion. The Swedes look to be one of the other most complete teams in the tournament with (King) Henrik Lundqvist in net, Erik Karlsson and Niklas Kronwall anchoring the D, solid offensive performers in Nicklas Backstrom, Daniel Sedin, Gabriel Landeskog, Henrik Zetterberg and this year’s NHL breakout performer Alexander Steen, along with veteran Daniel Alfredsson providing the needed leadership. This makes it hard to believe this team would finish without a medal, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they found a way to upset Canada. The Swedes have lots of top-end talent on their team, but their bottom lines see a drop in talent compared to Canada or even the United States, which could also make their likelihood of earning a medal a little less sure. And with Henrik Sedin injured prior to the tournament, it doesn’t help their chances either. Since the 1992 Olympics, Sweden has ironically always placed either 5th or won gold every time with 1994 and 2006 being their medal years. I expect that trend to change in the gold-medal game, with Sweden getting its first silver medal since 1964.

Olympics competed in: 21

Medal Count: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze (8 Total)

Best Finish: 1st

Worst Finish: 5th

Last Medal: Gold in 2006

Current IIHF World Ranking: 1st

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 24

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 10

Expected Top Performer: Erik Karlsson

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

D Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators) 59-15-40-55-24

*D Niklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings) 56-6-30-36-38

D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Phoenix Coyotes) 56-8-21-29-36

D Niklas Hjalmarsson (Chicago Blackhawks) 60-4-19-23-30

D Alexander Edler (Vancouver Canucks) 41-5-10-15-24

*D Johnny Oduya (Chicago Blackhawks) 58-3-10-13-24

D Jonathan Ericsson (Detroit Red Wings) 38-1-8-9-30

*D Henrik Tallinder (Buffalo Sabres) 44-2-5-7-24

*F Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals) 59-11-45-56-38

F Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche) 57-18-30-48-45

*F Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings) 45-16-32-48-20

F Alexander Steen (St. Louis Blues) 46-28-16-46-30

*F Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks) 60-13-27-40-36

F Marcus Johansson (Washington Capitals) 59-7-29-36-4

*F Daniel Alfredsson (Detroit Red Wings) 46-14-21-35-10

F Gustav Nyquist (Detroit Red Wings) 33-14-10-24-8

F Patrik Berglund (St. Louis Blues) 54-8-16-24-28

F Marcus Kruger (Chicago Blackhawks) 60-6-18-24-24

F Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers) 49-12-11-23-32

*F Loui Eriksson (Boston Bruins) 37-6-14-20-4

F Jakob Silfverberg (Anaheim Ducks) 32-6-9-15-8

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

*G Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers) 44-22-18-3-2.41-.918-3

*G Jonas Gustavsson (Detroit Red Wings) 22-13-4-3-2.55-.911-0

G Jhonas Enroth (Buffalo Sabres) 20-1-12-5-2.89-.905-0

BRONZE: Russia (Group A)

RussiaAnalysis: The host team will be under pressure to perform and bring a men’s hockey Olympic medal to Russia for the first time since 2002. The team has lots of firepower, making it hard not to look at them as one of the favourites. The NHL’s leading goal-scorer Alex Ovechkin, along with some of the game’s best in Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk (if healthy) gives Russia an abundance of top-end skill up front. Its defence is fairly average compared to the other top teams. In net, last year’s Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov are two of the game’s elite goaltenders. The one mistake I believe the Russians made when they assembled the team was the abundance of KHL players added to try and showcase a lower quality league, instead of putting better NHL players on the squad. News of a groin injury to Datsyuk will hurt this team if he can’t play — or isn’t at 100 per cent. I can’t see them competing with the likes of Canada and Sweden, who both have a bit more depth throughout their lineups. I fully expect a repeat of their 2002 bronze-medal finish, which should still make their country proud.

Olympics competed in: 15 (9 as Soviet Union)

Medal Count: 7 gold, 2 Bronze, 2 Silver (11 Total)

Best Finish: 1st

Worst Finish: 6th

Last Medal: Bronze in 2002

Current IIHF World Ranking: 3rd

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 16

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 9

Expected Top Performer: Alex Ovechkin

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

*D Andrei Markov (Montreal Canadiens) 59-5-26-31-26

*D Fedor Tyutin (Columbus Blue Jackets) 53-4-20-24-30

D Slava Voynov (Los Angeles Kings) 59-3-19-22-32

D Nikita Nikitin (Columbus Blue Jackets) 51-2-12-14-18

D Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens) 37-1-7-8-37

D Anton Belov (Edmonton Oilers) 47-1-5-6-32

*F Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) 55-40-20-60-36

*F Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins) 47-18-40-58-50

F Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues) 54-18-16-34-12

*F Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings) 37-15-18-33-6

*F Alexander Semin (Carolina Hurricanes) 45-14-15-29-34

F Valeri Nichushkin (Dallas Stars) 55-13-15-28-6

F Artem Anisimov (Columbus Blue Jackets) 58-13-13-26-14

F Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs) 48-8-10-18-12

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

*G Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche) 46-28-11-5-2.48-.924-1

G Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets) 37-20-14-3-2.52-.918-2

4TH: United States (Group A)

USAAnalysis: They are good, they are young, I think Team USA management has this team set up to provide experience for the 2018 games if NHL players participate. Sniper Phil Kessel has been one of the NHL’s hottest players going into the Olympic break, and if he and Leafs linemate James van Riemsdyk can continue their strong play together in Sochi, they will be hard to stop. There is also the very talented Patrick Kane, who is one of the game’s best offensive players and is sure to produce at these Games. Goaltending should be of no concern with Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller likely shouldering the load. The D core anchored by Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter, along with a lot of young defencemen and the veteran Paul Martin should be interesting to watch. But it’s hard to read how they will perform with lots of inexperience on the Olympic stage. I’m predicting a 4th-place finish, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take home a medal. In the past three Olympics, the Americans have played against Canada for gold and finished with silver twice. Like the Canadians, the 2006 Winter Games were also a disaster when the Americans finished 8th — again behind a 7th-place Canadian finish. Expect the U.S. to compete, but finish just outside the medals — likely losing to Russia.

Olympics competed in: 22

Medal Count: 2 Gold, 8 Silver, 1 Bronze (11 Total)

Best Finish: 1st

Worst Finish: 8th / Also Disqualified in 1948 (Brought 2 teams, one with pros)

Last Medal: Silver in 2010

Current IIHF World Ranking: 6th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 25

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 12

Expected Top Performer: Phil Kessel

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

D Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues) 56-8-28-36-20

*D Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild) 59-6-27-33-24

D Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks) 60-6-25-31-12

D Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) 59-8-22-30-18

D John Carlson (Washington Capitals) 59-10-13-23-16

D Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes) 57-3-19-22-31

D Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins) 33-2-10-12-8

*D Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins) 50-1-11-12-42

*F Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs) 60-31-34-65-19

*F Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks) 59-27-36-63-18

*F Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks) 59-29-25-54-26

F Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets) 60-22-26-48-42

F James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs) 58-24-23-47-34

F T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues) 57-14-32-46-30

*F David Backes (St. Louis Blues) 52-20-22-42-78

*F Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche) 52-17-24-41-20

*F Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks) 60-20-18-38-63

F Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens) 50-26-11-37-24

*F Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild) 44-19-17-36-20

F Derek Stepan (New York Rangers) 59-10-25-35-12

*F Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers) 42-11-13-24-14

*F Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings) 58-10-6-16-56

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

*G Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) 39-14-22-3-2.74-.923-0

G Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings) 34-12-13-9-2.65-.914-2

*G Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) 32-16-13-2-2.18-.911-3

5TH: Finland (Group B)

SJL_SUOMI_logo_rgbAnalysis: Goaltending will spur this team into the top 5, and I fully expect Tuukka Rask to be the best goalie in the tournament. Along with Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen, the Finns have without a doubt the best goaltending trio at these Olympics. Both Rask and Niemi have Stanley Cups to their credit and should provide the big-game goaltending Finland needs to compete, making up for a defence that includes four fairly average NHLers. Offence will likely be a challenge as Jussi Jokinen is the only one putting up decent NHL numbers this year, and Teemu Selanne’s days of putting up lots of points are behind him at the age of 43, although his veteran presence should be a benefit. Injuries to skilled NHL forwards Valtteri Filppula and Mikko Koivu are not going to help Finland’s chances, nor is having a veteran like Saku Koivu opting to sit these Games out. The Finns have been impressive over the last five Olympics, making it to the podium four times, including three bronze and one silver. I just don’t see this squad placing higher than 5th.

Olympics competed in: 16

Medal Count: 2 Silver, 3 Bronze

Best Finish: 2nd

Worst Finish: 7th

Last Medal: Bronze in 2010

Current IIHF World Ranking: 2nd

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 14

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 5

Expected Top Performer: Tuukka Rask

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

D Olli Maatta (Pittsburgh Penguins) 57-6-17-23-12

*D Kimmo Timonen (Philadelphia Flyers) 57-2-17-19-28

D Sami Vatanen (Anaheim Ducks) 41-6-8-14-20

*D Sami Salo (Tampa Bay Lightning) 49-1-9-10-10

F Jussi Jokinen (Pittsburgh Penguins) 58-16-26-42-6

*F Olli Jokinen (Winnipeg Jets) 60-13-19-32-36

F Mikael Granlund (Minnesota Wild) 46-5-23-28-18

F Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers) 54-8-16-24-10

F Lauri Korpikoski (Phoenix Coyotes) 42-7-13-20-18

*F Teemu Selanne (Anaheim Ducks) 47-7-13-20-12

*F Tuomo Ruutu (Carolina Hurricanes) 52-5-11-16-32

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

G Tuukka Rask (Boston Bruins) 25-13-4-2.11-.928-5

G Kari Lehtonen (Dallas Stars) 22-15-10-2.48-.916-3

G Antti Niemi (San Jose Sharks) 29-12-6-2.39-.912-2

6TH: Czech Republic (Group C)

Czech RepublicAnalysis: David Krejci and Jaromir Jagr are both having productive years in the NHL and I expect them to lead the Czech offence, with the likes of Jakub Voracek, Martin Hanzal, Ondrej Palat, Patrik Elias, Tomas Plekanec and Michael Frolik providing some decent secondary scoring. With four current NHLers and former NHLer Tomas Kaberle on the back end, they should be competitive. In net, Ondrej Pavelec will have to provide solid goaltending and should — though he’ll oddly be a healthy scratch for the tournament opener against Sweden, with KHLer Jakub Kovar getting the first start. The Czechs have talent, but not enough star power to move this team into the medals. I think leaving Calgary Flames leading scorer Jiri Hudler off the team was a very poor decision, and his 43 points in 58 games — 14 more than anyone else on a horrible Flames team — shows Hudler is used to being the go-to guy for offence. Krejci and Jagr are the only two players on this team producing more points than Hudler this season and his much-needed extra offence will be missed. Petr Nedved provides size compared to Hudler, but he is probably one of the most interesting picks on the squad at 42 years old and having not played a game in the NHL since the 2006-07 season — even if he’s still putting up decent numbers in the Czech league. The gold-medal finish in 1998 and bronze-medal victory in 2006 aren’t likely to be repeated any time soon, but an improvement to 6th after a 7th-place showing in Vancouver sounds about right.

Olympics competed in: 6 (Czechoslovakia 16 others)

Medal Count: 1 Gold, 1 Bronze (2 Total) / Czechoslovakia 4 Silver, 4 Bronze (8 Total)

Best Finish: 1st

Worst Finish: 7th

Last Medal: Bronze in 2006

Current IIHF World Ranking: 4th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 17

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 10

Expected Top Performer: David Krejci

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

*D Marek Zidlicky (New Jersey Devils) 58-8-21-29-48

D Radko Gudas (Tampa Bay Lightning) 53-2-14-16-122

*D Zbynek Michalek (Phoenix Coyotes) 36-1-5-6-20

D Michal Rozsival (Chicago Blackhawks) 33-1-5-6-28

D Ladislav Smid (Calgary Flames) 57-1-3-4-64

*F David Krejci (Boston Bruins) 57-13-37-50-26

*F Jaromir Jagr (New Jersey Devils) 59-17-32-49-32

F Jakub Voracek        (Philadelphia Flyers) 59-15-25-40-8

F Martin Hanzal (Phoenix Coyotes) 52-14-22-36-71

F Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay Lightning) 58-14-20-34-18

*F Patrik Elias (New Jersey Devils) 44-11-22-33-10

*F Tomas Plekanec (Montreal Canadiens) 59-17-16-33-24

F Michael Frolik (Winnipeg Jets) 59-12-18-30-12

*F Milan Michalek (Ottawa Senators) 59-10-15-25-22

F Ales Hemsky (Edmonton Oilers) 52-7-17-24-20

*F Martin Erat (Washington Capitals) 51-1-21-22-20

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

*G Ondrej Pavelec (Winnipeg Jets) 45-18-22-4-2.97-.901-1

7TH: Slovakia (Group A)

SlovakiaAnalysis: This team’s chances rest on the huge shoulders of Zdeno Chara, who definitely makes his 6-foot-9, 255-pound presence known when he steps on the ice. Chara will have to lead this team, along with the highly skilled Marian Hossa, who’s really the only star player up front. Another player to watch is Andrej Sekera, who should have a solid tournament as he’s been having quite the productive NHL season with the Hurricanes — putting up 32 points in 55 games. Goaltending should be decent with Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj on the squad. They just don’t have enough elite talent to compete with the other hockey powerhouses. Slovakia has never brought home a medal since Czechoslovakia split, finishing 4th in 2010 and 5th in 2006. I see a step back in the standings to 7th.

Olympics competed in: 6 (Czechoslovakia 16 others)

Medal Count: None / Czechoslovakia 4 Silver, 4 Bronze (8 Total)

Best Finish: 4th (Silver as Czechkoslovakia)

Worst Finish: 13th

Last Medal: None (Bronze in 1993 as Czechoslovakia)

Current IIHF World Ranking: 8th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 12

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 12

Expected Top Performer: Marian Hossa

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

*D Andrej Sekera (Carolina Hurricanes) 55-9-23-32-18

*D Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins) 54-13-13-26-44

*D Andrej Meszaros (Philadelphia Flyers) 35-4-12-16-34

D Martin Marincin (Edmonton Oilers) 22-0-2-2-12

*F Marian Hossa (Chicago Blackhawks) 55-24-26-50-16

F Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings) 49-13-11-24-12

*F Tomas Kopecky (Florida Panthers) 49-4-8-12-18

F Michal Handzus (Chicago Blackhawks) 41-4-7-11-10

F Richard Panik (Tampa Bay Lightning) 39-2-9-11-15

F Tomas Jurco (Detroit Red Wings) 19-3-4-7-10

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

*G Peter Budaj (Montreal Canadiens) 14-6-4-1-1.97-.926

*G Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues) 39-24-8-4-2.26-.915-4

8TH: Switzerland (Group C)

SwitzerlandAnalysis: It’s hard to ignore the fact that Switzerland always performs well on the Olympic stage and gives fits to teams with a lot more talent. Jonas Hiller is a great goaltender, Roman Josi and Mark Streit are above-average NHL defenders, and Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber are average NHL defencemen. Damien Brunner and Nino Niederreiter are the only current NHLers up front and neither are anything too special at this point in their careers. Roman Wick, who played 7 games with the Senators a few years back and has been a Swiss League standout the past few years, will be relied on heavily to help spur this team’s offence. The Swiss finished 8th in Vancouver, and I’d expect the same this year.

Olympics competed in: 16

Medal Count: 2 Bronze

Best Finish: 3rd

Worst Finish: 11th

Last Medal: Bronze in 1948

Current IIHF World Ranking: 7th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 8

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 11

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

*D Mark Streit (Philadelphia Flyers) 59-8-21-29-32

D Roman Josi (Nashville Predators) 49-8-17-25-14

*D Raphael Diaz (Vancouver Canucks) 49-1-12-13-12

*D Yannick Weber (Vancouver Canucks) 32-2-3-5-8

F Nino Niederreiter (Minnesota Wild) 59-11-18-29-32

F Damien Brunner (New Jersey Devils) 41-9-8-17-24

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-W-L-T-GAA-SP%-SO

*G Jonas Hiller (Anaheim Ducks) 39-25-9-4-2.34-.917-4

G Reto Berra (Calgary Flames) 27-4-3-1-2.66-.908-0

9TH: Austria (Group B)

AustriaAnalysis: Thomas Vanek and Islanders teammate Michael Grabner will have the chance to show what Austria can do on the Olympic stage for the first time since 2002 and should be motivated, but will also be relied upon heavily for offensive production. Michael Raffl is the only other NHLer on the roster and should be equally enthused, but also in demand of a strong performance. I feel Austria will place 9th, its highest showing since 1988 when it did the same with the team’s enthusiasm guiding the way despite their lack of NHL depth. I can see a lopsided loss against fellow Group B member Canada. But Austria should stay close against an offensively challenged Finland squad and beat a comparable Norway squad in the round robin.

Olympics competed in: 13

Medal Count: None

Best Finish: 5th

Worst Finish: 14th

Last Medal: None

Current IIHF World Ranking: 15th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 3

Number of Returning Players from 2010: Did Not Qualify

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

F Thomas Vanek (New York Islanders) 57-19-30-49-36

F Micahel Grabner (New York Islanders) 56-9-11-20-12

F Michal Raffl (Philadelphia Flyers) 46-7-11-18-16

10TH: Norway (Group B)

NorwayAnalysis: Would you pick a nation known for vikings to finish last in a battle? I wouldn’t either, but I do believe Norway should place higher than last and possibly as high as 8th. After the last Olympics helped Mats Zuccarello land an NHL gig with the New York Rangers — where he is thriving as the team’s leading scorer this year — he also finds himself as the lone current NHLer on the squad. There’s also former NHLers like Patrick Thoresen and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen in the lineup, but Norway shouldn’t be expected to place high. It ended up 10th in Vancouver, and I would expect the same this tournament. The Norwegians hadn’t played in the Olympics since they hosted the 1994 Games prior to their appearance in the 2010 Vancouver Games, but with 13 returning players, there should be some familiarity. Norway may be a long way from matching its Scandinavian neighbours Finland and Sweden, but it is definitely on the way to being competitive.

Olympics competed in: 11

Medal Count: None

Best Finish: 8th

Worst Finish: 12th

Last Medal: None

Current IIHF World Ranking: 9th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 1

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 13

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

*F Mats Zuccarello (New York Rangers) 58-15-28-43-24

11TH: Slovenia (Group A)

SloveniaAnalysis: If this team was full of Anze Kopitar-calibre players, we’d be talking about medals. But I don’t think even the most knowledgeable (North American) hockey fan could name anybody else on the team without sneaking a peek at the roster. However, I do believe the strong play of Kopitar and the enthusiasm of making the country’s first ever Olympic hockey appearance may be enough to keep this team out of last place.

Olympics competed in: 1st

Medal Count: None

Best Finish: None

Worst Finish: None

Last Medal: None

Current IIHF World Ranking: 17th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 1

Number of Returning Players from 2010: Did Not Play

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

F Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings) 59-17-30-47-16

12TH: Latvia (Group C)

LatviaAnalysis: Latvia has finished 12th the past two Olympics and I’d expect that trend to continue. Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres is their lone NHLer and he’s not exactly a household name yet, in this his rookie season. Former NHLers on the squad include defenceman Oskars Bartulis (Philadelphia) and forward Kaspars Daugavins (Ottawa, Boston). Then there’s a name more familiar to most hockey fans — Sandis Ozolinsh. The 41-year-old former San Jose Sharks blue-liner cracked Latvia’s roster, but he is no longer the highly offensive defenceman he was back in the 1990s. Speaking of the 1990s, Latvians and San Jose Sharks, what this team needs is for its goaltenders to perform similar to how Arturs Irbe did for Latvia back in 2002, when he helped his country to its best finish ever, which was 9th. Of course, Irbe — at 47 years old and having retired shortly after the 2006 Olympics — would not be a solution for the Latvian net these days. But a repeat performance of Irbe’s heroics may be the only thing that could keep Latvia out of the tournament basement. That challenge will fall to 21-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending prospect Kristers Gudlevskis or 29-year-old Ervins Mustkovs, who is performing well in Denmark and also played well in Sweden last year.

Olympics competed in: 5

Medal Count: None

Best Finish: 9th

Worst Finish: 12th

Last Medal: None

Current IIHF World Ranking: 11th

Number of current NHLers on Roster: 1

Number of Returning Players from 2010: 13

Pos – Name – Team – 2013-14 Season Stats GP-G-A-PTS-PIM

F Zemgus Girgensons (Buffalo Sabres) 56-5-12-17-6

NOTE: NHL players with an asterisk (*) also played in the 2010 Olympics.

Individual Awards

MVP: Sidney Crosby (Canada)

TOP FORWARD: Sidney Crosby (Canada)

TOP DEFENCEMAN: Erik Karlsson (Sweden)

TOP GOALTENDER: Tuukka Rask (Finland)

Top Performer for other countries:

Alexander Ovechkin (Russia)

Phil Kessel (USA)

David Krejci (Czech Republic)

Marian Hossa (Slovakia)

Jonas Hiller (Switzerland)

Thomas Vanek (Austria)

Mats Zuccarello (Norway)

Anze Kopitar (Slovenia)

Zergus Girgensons (Latvia)

Next Olympic player to perform well enough to land an NHL job:

Roman Wick (Switzerland)

IIHF World Rankings courtesy of: http://www.iihf.com/home-of-hockey/championships/world-ranking/mens-world-ranking/2013-ranking.html

Olympic Medal Information courtesy of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_hockey_at_the_Olympic_Games

Jesse Gill is a former radio broadcaster and colour commentator who dreamed of anchoring TSN, but has since changed careers and now calls Medicine Hat, Alta., home. His passion for hockey has remained strong, as a lifelong Toronto Maple Leafs fan who also enjoys the junior ranks and the rougher side of the sport. Follow him on Twitter: @JesseGill3.

Dan Nadeau worked
Dan Nadeau

GOLD: Sweden. Too much depth for anyone to overcome, especially on the back end. King Henrik For MVP!

SILVER: Russia. Russians are almost as prideful as Canadians when its comes to hockey, and Sergei Bobrovsky has proven he can be an elite ‘tender.

BRONZE: Finland. Tuukka Rask steals the bronze from Canada.

4TH: Canada. Can’t overcome the lack of scoring with Stamkos missing, and the big ice will be a factor, plus the goaltending will falter in the medal round.

5TH: Czech Republic. Solid team, but don’t think Petr Nedved and the old boys’ club will do much. Missing Jiri Hudler and a few others.

6TH: USA. Will be a strong contender in four years if the NHL still sends its players to the Olympics, but the lack of experience on the defence will show strongly in this tourney.

7TH: Switzerland. Up-and-coming hockey country will surprise a few teams, but still not quite there.

8TH: Slovakia. Just don’t see them competing this year for some reason.

9TH: Austria. Solid hockey nation, but too small to compete with the major players.

10TH: Latvia. Arturs Irbe still playing for them? If so, have a shot at 9th?

11TH: Slovenia. Kopitar > Zuccarello.

12TH: Norway. See Above.

TOP GOALTENDER: King Henrik (Sweden, MVP)

TOP FORWARD: Evgeni Malkin (Russia)

TOP DEFENCEMAN: Erik Karlsson (Sweden)

DARKHORSE MVP: Sergei Bobrovsky (Russia)

Dan Nadeau is a retired hockey player living the dream through coaching and beer leagues. Good at hockey, better at drinking beers! Follow him on Twitter: @dan_nadeau.

Scott Lepp
Scott Lepp

GOLD: Canada. Plain and simply, they’re sending the best team to Sochi. P.K. Subban is going to shine offensively and Carey Price will be the X-Factor.

SILVER: U.S.A. Goaltending is going to keep ‘Merica in this one. They managed with a non-elite D corps in Vancouver and I expect they’ll do the same. Look out for TJ Oshie.

BRONZE: Sweden. With Russia wallowing after semifinal loss, the Swedes will dominate start to finish with their typical execution and great netminding. Gabriel Landeskog cements himself as a stud.

DARKHORSE: Really isn’t one. Swiss aren’t good enough. The rest of the top 7 could all win and I don’t think it would be a huge surprise.

MVP: Sidney Crosby (Canada). Best player on gold-medal-winning team.

DARKHORSE MVP: Patrick Sharp (Canada).

STAR FORWARD: Duh. Crosby (Canada), the greatest player on the planet.

STAR DEFENCEMAN: Erik Karlsson (Sweden). Canada has too much depth and D will be American’s Achilles heel while Karlsson always shines.

STAR GOALTENDER: Tuukka Rask (Finland). The Fins are going to be trouble, but lack of scoring will lead to their demise. Rask will nearly carry them to the semis.

Scott Lepp is an Independent Film/TV Producer from Okotoks, Alta. Lifelong Calgary Flames fan turned critic and contributor to SBNation blog Matchsticks & Gasoline. Follow him on Twitter: @WestmountWailer.

Matt Gunn
Matt Gunn

GOLD: Canada. It may be a bit of a homer pick, but from top to bottom, no other team comes close to Canada.

SILVER: Sweden. A lot of big-game players on this team, a great defence and arguably the best goalie in the NHL.

BRONZE: Russia. Will this be considered a disappointment for Russian fans? It shouldn’t be. They have a good team, but not a great team, and bronze should be considered a success.

DARKHORSE: Finland. They dont have much for offence and their defence doesn’t match the other top teams, but their goaltending depth is No. 1 in my opinion. They always play a great team game at IIHF events and seem to come together quickly in these short tournaments, which is something Canada often does not do.

MVP: John Tavares. The easy pick (and likely eventual winner) is Sidney Crosby. But I’ll go a little off the board and say Tavares comes through with some timely big goals and ends up the tournament MVP.

ALL-STARS: I’ll have to go with my predictions above in order to pick who my all-stars will be. The three forwards being Alex Ovechkin, Crosby and Tavares. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Shea Weber as the top two defencemen and Henrik Lundqvist as top goaltender.

Matt Gunn is a Kelowna resident with a lifelong passion for hockey, and a self-professed master of fantasy hockey. Follow him on Twitter: @mattgunn18.

Josh Aldrich
Josh Aldrich

GOLD: Sweden. The best combo of goaltending and defence in the tournament, especially with Lundqvist back in world-class form. Biggest question is their ability to replace Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen up front.

SILVER: Russia. Their firepower, competent goaltending from red-hot Sergei Bobrovsky and home crowd get them to the final. But when your D includes Anton Belov, I see heartbreak for the Russians.

BRONZE: Canada. I do want to be able to remain in the country. I just can’t trust Canada’s goalies and Canada has always struggled in non-North American Olympics. Something will go wrong.

DARKHORSE: Czech Republic. Tons of offensive talent, but a questionable back end. If Ondrej Pavelec continues his strong recent play, they could make a push for the podium. And let’s not forget, this is likely Jagr’s last time on the world stage. He’ll want to go out with a bang. Can he turn back the clock for a week?

MVP: Alex Ovechkin (Russia). This tournament means more to him than anything else in his career, more so than winning a Cup (remember the rhetoric during the lockout if the NHL opted out of Sochi?). We’ll see a new side of the reigning NHL MVP.

TOP FORWARD: Patrick Kane (U.S.A.). He’ll be one North American player that can take advantage of the big ice surface with his elite speed and skill, has knack of coming up huge when it matters most and it doesn’t get any bigger than the Olympics.

TOP DEFENCEMAN: Erik Karlsson (Sweden). Lost in the shadows in Ottawa, his playmaking ability, awareness, first pass and comfort level on the big ice will be on full display. He will be huge for Sweden as they march to gold.

TOP GOALTENDER: Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden). After a shaky start to the season, he has played much better of late, and he will rise to the occasion, leading Sweden to gold while proving all over again that he’s the best goalie in the world.

Josh Aldrich is an award-winning sports editor at the Nanaimo Daily News with more than a decade in the newspaper business. In March, he will be joining the staff at the Red Deer Advocate. Follow him on Twitter: @JoshAldrich03.

Larry Fisher
Larry Fisher

GOLD: Canada. Team to beat on paper, led by the NHL’s top 3 scorers at Olympic break. Goaltending is wild-card, but I think it is in good, capable hands either way.

SILVER: Russia. Hosts have the offensive firepower to come out on top, but their depth and defence is a little suspect and could cost them in the end.

BRONZE: Sweden. Losing Henrik Sedin will hurt, but their other Hank (King Lundqvist) will get them into the medals, most likely beating the Americans for bronze.

DARKHORSE: None. The five also-rans will be non-factors again. The seven medal contenders shouldn’t come as a surprise however it plays out.

MVP: Sidney Crosby (Canada). The best player in the sport will once again be the best player on the biggest stage, outshining Alex Ovechkin and Co. in the gold-medal game.

DARKHORSE MVP: Ilya Kovalchuk (Russia). Nobody knows what to expect from him, but I’m expecting a determined performance that rivals any player in the tournament. Could outscore Ovechkin.

STAR FORWARD: John Tavares (Canada). He’s already broke out by NHL standards, but I think this will be his real coming-out party — especially if he plays with Crosby. I foresee Tavares leading the tournament in scoring (points).

STAR DEFENCEMAN: Erik Karlsson (Sweden). Silky smooth and fully recovered from his Anchilles injury, much of Sweden’s offence will run through this dynamic defender. Would be surprised if Karlsson doesn’t lead defence scoring.

STAR GOALTENDER: Semyon Varlamov (Russia). Will need to first win the role of starter, but I think he ends up backstopping Russia within a goal or two of gold. If they end up winning, this guy is your MVP (… or Sergei Bobrovsky if he starts instead).

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, B.C. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Lorenzo
    February 12, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    I agree with Scott, noway anyone else in the tournament has more depth than Canada, in any position. If you can’t “trust” Canada’s goalies then you obviously don’t watch too many Habs games. Carey Price is the best goalie attending the tournament period. He’s never hurt, he’s cool as a cucumber and he makes ridiculous saves. Sure he had a stretch where he allowed more than 4 goals per game for about 4/5 games in Jan/Feb but the play in front of him was atrocious to say the least. If Montreal didn’t have Carey Price they would finish at the bottom of the standings and challenge the Oilers for no.1 pick annually. I have no doubt in my mind.

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