Hockey betting – Preview of Group A top prospects for the IIHF 2012 World Championships
This preview focuses on the top dogs of Group A. This group is being played in Helsinki, Finland. Our previous article on the teams thought to place 5-8th is found HERE. We hope you will enjoy your hockey betting after having read our little piece. Be sure to stay updated as players may drop in from the NHL during the tournament as teams get knocked out of the play-offs.
Switzerland has secured Olympic hockey and are pushing for a potential run to the quarter finals. Much like Germany one feel this team is a very stable 6-10 team in the world. The Swiss will be facing some stiff competition from Slovakia, Belarus and potentially also France for what is generally considered the only slot left into the quarter finals.
Defense is where the Swiss usually have gotten their results from. They pack it at the back and wait for good openings before they send the team forward skating at full speed. This World Championship doesn’t look like it will be much different in that regard. In goal they will field a home league keeper, something that at this level is risky. We have no doubt they’re good, but this is no walk in the park.
Mark Streit, of New York Islanders is a high rated defenseman. Luca Sbisa, of Anaheim Ducks can pull a few rabbits from his hat too. Patrick von Gunten, from Frölunda (Elitserien) is worth mentioning as well. He is a great two-way defender who can notch plenty of points. With the Swiss style of play he should be valuable. A group of former mediocre NHL players are also present. It should be said that a few players such as Diaz and Weber are missing due to injury. Roman Josi, Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber would have been welcome in this squad, but they are still on NHL duty.
Up front they got Nino Niederreiter, of the New York Islanders. Just don’t expect him to set the roof on fire. He is still learning the game, and cannot be asked to shoulder too much responsibility. Damien Brunner, of EV Zug and Ivo Rüthemann of Bern is leading the line that for us quite frankly looks a bit unexciting.
The Swiss will still play organized in defense, and they got some two-way players that can and will take responsibility. However, we do see the potential for this Swiss team not to progress. It’s game on for Belarus, Slovakia and France.
The US usually doesn’t perform well at the Worlds. They got their focus on the NHL and the Olympics. That hasn’t stopped them from picking a very interesting team that on paper looks like a good mix of stars and youth.
In goal Jimmy Howard, of Detroit Red Wings give the US a rock solid performer. He is indeed one of the best in the business, and the defense will be pleased to have him shoring things up. Alex Goligoski, of the Dallas Stars is probably the best defenseman in this squad. He is joined by young Cam Fowler of Anaheim Ducks, Justin Faulk, of Carolina Hurricanes. Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets and Jeff Petry, Edmonton Oilers, Chris Butler, Calgary Flames and Justin Braun, San Jose Sharks are also in. It will be interesting to see how so many young players will cope for Uncle Sam. There is no doubt they got quality, but the finesse and experience to beat the best in the game? Probably not.
Up front Bobby Ryan of Anaheim and Max Pacioretty of Montreal Canadiens are 60 points a season material. Paul Statsny and Kyle Okposo of the NY Islanders are also very solid offsensive players. These players can give any team in the competition problems. It is interesting to see Ryan Lasch, of Pelicans Lahti (SM Liiga) has been given the nod. He had a massive campaign in Finland, and he could find himself playing from the right quite a bit this World Championship. Head coach Scott Gordon has also selected a mix of youth (looking forward to the 2014 Olympics we are sure) and some nitty-gritty get-the-work-done type of players.
Overall this team is more than capable to get to the quarter final. However, they can’t just sit there and wish it will happen. The US has sometimes gone to the Worlds on vacation, and we don’t know what this edition is up to. Look out in their first game. Attitude and determination is what you’re looking for. If they give their best, they can go far.
As defending champions the pressure is on Jukka Jalonen, the head coach to deliver the goods. Looking at the rooster some brave decisions have been made. Tuomo Ruutu and Sami Vatanen both NHL players were not picked after some internal incidents in the squad.
In goal they got Kari Lehtonen, of the Dallas Stars, who is a more than capable keeper. Furthermore they got excellent KHL backups in Karri Rämö and Petri Vehanen.
The big shocker is that the defense is chemically free from NHL players. It looks like Jukka Jalonen is thinking a bit along the lines of his Russian colleague Bilyaletdinov. The players selected however aren’t lightweights. Five players from the better KHL teams are present. Lasse Kukkonen, of Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Janne Niskala, of Atlant and Anssi Salmela, of Avangard are examples of this. We expect a lot of Ossi Väänänen from Jokerit also. He has plenty of experience and should stand out for the hosts.
In offense they have selected four NHL players only. Mikko Koivu, of Minnesota Wild is selected to captain the side. He is a solid and influential player so that seems like a wise choice. Valtteri Filppula, of Detroit Red Wings had a great season and captured 66 points. His abilities will be needed. Speedy Jussi Jokinen, of Carolina Hurricanes is capable of having a 50 point season in NHL so he is surely no walkover either. Young prodigy; Mikael Granlund (soon to sign for Minnesota from HIFK) completes the NHL contingent. He is a creative player, capable of goals. He has bags full of trickery and round this off with being an average+ skater.
Besides the NHL players we find four players from the KHL, and four from the SM-Liiga. There is also room for two players from the Swedish Elitserien. Petri Kontiola, of Traktor Chelyabinsk for instance is a very creative player. A hockey playmaker. The same can be said about the very passionate Leo Komarov, of Dynamo Moscow. If he can keep his head cool, calm and collected he can be a big player for the Finns. Antti Pihlström, of Salavat is another player in the same mould.
It really seems like Finland goes for fast paced passing and good skating. They also have plenty of people who can fire shots and be creative in tight spots. This is indeed a very interesting, and brave selection from the head coach. This strategy should see the Finns safely through to the quarters, as the less solid teams will feel the pain of the pass and move Finnish style. Against teams that can match the creative and technical quality in offense, Russia and perhaps the Czechs things get trickier. Also, against a more physical, yet sharp Canada they might skate into problems.
The powerhouse that is Canada is sending a great team to this Championship. If their motivation is elevated and they can keep on improving in usual style from game to game they will be hard to beat.
We are not going to waste much time on previewing the Canadians. They field top players all across the rink. What do you think of these defensemen? Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs, Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames, Marc-Édouard Vlasic, San Jose Sharks. Pretty awesome, right? They got more top drawer stuff as well. Cam Ward who looks to get the nod in goal will have no excuses.
Leading the attack you find top notch talent. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks are solid names that guide the way for an incredible bunch of young players. What about John Tavares of NY Islanders? He grabbed 81 points this season. Jordan Eberle of Edmonton grabbed 76. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton and Jeff Skinner, of Carolina Hurricanes are also top notch young stars who are here to get experience before 2014 (and most likely dominate this tournament in the process). Add to this a wealth of further attacking prowess and style and you got the wow factor all right.
The big question mark is as usual; are they on vacation or are they here to play? Having had countless units of Alcohol ourselves with Canadian superstars prior to a game in a World Championshop (they still won the game 4-2, close one though) we question the morale of the team going over. Having had a tough NHL season, these players are over here for some culture (read: blonde Scandinavian women) and relaxation. That said; the talent is obvious and if they come here to win, well, they must be clear favorites. We do however want to see what this team is made of in the first game or two before we trick ourselves to bet on midget odds.