The NHL built an Olympic break into the 2021-22 schedule, but that time will instead be used to play games that were postponed due to COVID-19. The men’s hockey tournament in Beijing will not feature any active NHL players, but there are a lot of ex-NHLers, including some guys who recently retired from the world’s top league.
The 2022 Winter Olympics men’s hockey rosters feature a hodgepodge of players and a lot more intrigue than what some might expect.
Odds come from DraftKings Sportsbook for the preview, but other sportsbooks do have odds up for the men’s ice hockey tournament and it is always in your best interest to shop around for the best prices.
Odds to Win the Gold Medal
ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) + 150
Finland + 450
Sweden + 550
Canada + 700
Czech Republic + 900
Switzerland + 1400
USA + 1600
Germany + 2000
Slovakia + 5000
Denmark + 10000
Latvia + 10000
China + 70000
The Russians are big favorites because their team is comprised completely of professional players that play in the KHL and there are several ex-NHLers for head coach Alexei Zhamnov to deploy in the Games.
The Finns lost to Canada in the Championship Game of the 2021 IIHF World Championships last summer by a 3-2 count in overtime. They’re the second favorite, with Sweden third, as those two teams look extremely likely to advance out of Group play with Latvia and Slovakia as the other two nations in Group C.
It may surprise some to see Canada the fourth choice at 7/1 with plenty of ex-NHLers, but there are some questions in net. It is even more surprising to see the Americans at 16/1, down below six teams, including Switzerland.
Germany was lined much higher when the odds came out at offshore sportsbooks, but they took some early money when bettors found out that NHL players would not be participating. Germany is in Group A with the Americans and Canadians.
After running through some Group Play bets and analysis, I’ll have my Gold Medal futures picks at the end.
USA + 190
Germany + 380
Canada: Edward Pasquale only played three games in the NHL, but he has 87 games under his belt in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with a 1.97 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. Pasquale and Devon Levi, who was outstanding for Team Canada at the 2021 World Juniors, could form a strong goaltending duo.
Defenseman Mat Robinson is the only player, outside of Levi and 19-year-old Owen Power (Michigan) to not have played an NHL game. Eric Staal is the 37-year-old captain of a team that mostly featured third and fourth-line type guys at the NHL level, but this is an older, experienced team with guys that have played a lot of pro hockey.
USA: Team USA is much different from Team Canada. The Americans have taken eight players aged 20 or under to the Games and 16 players that are 23 or under, including second-overall pick Matty Beniers from the 2021 NHL Draft. Veterans like Andy Miele, Steven Kampfer and Kenny Agostino are also on the roster.
The major question for the Americans is in net, with Strauss Mann (2020 Big Ten goalie of the year at Michigan), Drew Commesso (currently at Boston University) and Pat Nagle (Lehigh Valley AHL) on the roster. If any one of those guys takes the bull by the horns, the Americans get very interesting with their blend of speed and skill on the big international rink. International rinks are 13 feet wider than North American rinks.
Germany: The Germans lost 6-1 to Team USA in the third place game at least year’s World Championships, but played Finland to a 2-1 score in the semifinals. Germany has several players with NHL experience. The goalies are not among them, however, Mathias Niederberger and Felix Bruckmann were both on that WC team. Niederberger only allowed 12 goals in seven games. That team had Red Wings defenseman Mo Seider, who was named the best defenseman of the tournament. He’ll be sorely missed.
China: The Chinese team is actually HC Kunlun Red Star of the KHL. The roster has 11 Canadians, nine Chinese, three Americans and one Russian and has a record of 7-32 in KHL play this season.
Lean: USA + 190
This is just a lean for me, but the Americans have tremendous speed and skill and I believe the line for the game against Canada will have a smaller line than this. The Germans are interesting, but I don’t believe they’ll beat either Canada or the United States.
Czech Republic + 330
Switzerland + 450
ROC: The Russians are a clear favorite with players that all participate in the KHL. There are also a lot of ex-NHLers, including Mikhail Grigorenko, Anton Slepyshev, Nikita Nestorov, Slava Voynov and Nikita Gusev. The Russians finished fifth at the 2021 IIHF World Championships, but goaltender Alexander Samsonov only allowed eight goals in the six games that he played.
Russia actually outscored teams in Group play 28-10, but drew the eventual champion Canada in the quarterfinals and lost 2-1 in overtime.
Czech Republic: The Czechs are a really interesting team to me. They’re led by recently retired David Krejci and have several NHLers on the team. The Czechs lost 1-0 to Finland in the quarterfinals of the World Championships. Simon Hrubec started that game and just won the 2021 Gagarin Cup with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. This team is very dangerous.
Switzerland: The Swiss played really well in the World Championships and my guess is that is why they are getting a lot of respect here. They were 5-2 in Group play, but lost to Germany in a shootout in the Quarterfinals. Germany was the far better team in that game, but needed a goal to tie with 44 seconds left. Offense is the question for the Swiss.
Denmark: This is the first appearance for Denmark in the Winter Olympics. They’ll be overwhelmed in this Group.
Pick: Czech Republic + 330
The Czechs boast a pretty strong roster, all things considered. A lot of their guys have played together internationally for a long time and they are very strong in net. The championship game in Group B is Russia vs. Czech Republic and I believe the Czechs are a very live dog in that game.
Sweden + 110
Finland: The Finns brought an older, experienced team to Beijing that looks a lot like their runner-up World Championships team. This is a very deep roster with a lot of NHL experience and a smattering of guys that play in the KHL, including all three goalies. Juho Olkinuora was the starter in the Worlds, but Harri Sateri and Frans Tuohimaa are both very accomplished.
I’ve always had a love for how the Finns play hockey, as almost all of their players are responsible in all three zones and they’ve recently added a lot more skill as the game has gotten less physical. They’re my favorite nation to watch outside of the United States.
Sweden: The Swedes have fallen on hard times recently. They’ve been fifth in the last two World Championships and two of the last three Olympic Games. Sweden couldn’t score in last year’s WC. They do have three of the top four goaltenders in goals against average from last year’s KHL season, so maybe they won’t need to in this tournament. I’m not entirely sure why Sweden has faltered in international competition, but this is a chance to get back on track.
Slovakia: The most notable thing about the Slovaks is that 17-year-olds Simon Nemec and Juraj Slafkovsky are on the roster. Both are projected to be potential top-10 picks in the July draft.
Latvia: Kristers Gudlevskis is a name hockey fans might remember. He played a bit for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but nearly orchestrated an upset of Team Canada in the 2014 Winter Olympics by stopping 55 of 57 shots in a 2-1 loss during the Quarterfinals at just 22 years old.
Pick: Finland -125
The Finns are the best team in Group C and have strong goaltending depth. Sweden’s international struggles are a big burden to bear for a roster that would have looked substantially stronger with NHL players. The Slovaks and Latvians aren’t a threat to either team and Finland will be a bigger favorite in the head-to-head meeting with the Swedes.
Gold Medal Picks
Team USA 16/1 – I’m not sure the Americans win Gold for just the third time ever (1960, 1980), but the blend of speed, skill and young legs works well in this format on an international rink. USA Hockey has shined in World Juniors competition lately and has done a much better job of compiling rosters for international play. The young defense will be pressured by grown men playing professionally overseas, but I think this is one of the best offensive teams in the entire tournament.
This team is priced too low in my opinion, so it isn’t a bad starting point for the games and a potential hedging opportunity down the line.
Finland + 450 – The Finns have never won Olympic Gold, but had medaled in five of the last six Games prior to a thoroughly disappointing sixth in Pyeongchang in 2018. Some of these rosters have played together a lot and some have not, but the style of play from the Finns should yield fast chemistry in a tournament like this. They have tremendous depth with a fairly young defensive corps and have gone back to head coach Jukka Jalonen, who is one of two coaches to win Gold in the World Championships and World Junior Hockey Championships. He won bronze with Finland in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.