With the World Ice Hockey Championships starting just days away, here is a closer look at the teams with the highest chance for medals, before the first face-off at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia.
The tournament is categorized into two groups, A and B. During the opening day on May 31, fans will witness four matches being played, two from each group.
Canada will face Finland, while the United States will go toe to toe with Slovakia. Ilya Vorobiev’s Russian team will be facing Norway and the Czech Republic will go against Sweden from group B.
The battle among the big six
The big six hockey nations will be eager to clinch the medals. The top team in IIHF world ranking with 3990 points, Canada, will be eyeing to get gold in this year’s competition.
However, Sweden, Russia, the United States, the Czech Republic and Finland are also keeping their hopes alive to get on a podium.
The Organizing Committee has unveiled the gold, silver and bronze medals that players will be fighting for in 17 days and 64 games.
The race for gold
IIHF saw Britain qualify for a spot in the competition this year. Britain has recorded poor performances over the decades and reappears in the competition for the first time since 1994. This might be their chance to shine again.
Three-times bronze medalist, the U.S., will begin the contest after a successful campaign in December last year. They will be hoping to improve and win gold or silver to add to their recent bronze medal won in May 2018.
Sweden will not be left behind as they won their second consecutive medal and eleven overall titles, after defeating Switzerland 3-2 in the 2018 finals. However, anything can happen in this year’s tournament.
Players to watch out for
Connor McDavid leads the star Canadian team and will be supported by stars like Aaron Ekblad, Brayden Schenn, Mathew Barzal, Ryan O’Reilly and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, among others.
The U.S., Russia and Sweden will be no slouches either. The Americans will hit the ice with Patrick Kane as captain and sniper Johnny Gaudreau in tow, while Russia features the old pro, Pavel Datsyuk. Sweden relies on Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Rickard Rakell.
Players like Alec Martinez from the United States will be part of this year’s squad. Having represented his country in last year’s IIHF Championship, Martinez’s presence in this year’s competition will be a plus for the USA in their quest to win the trophy.
Another player Jack Hughes will also represent Team USA at the 2019 competition. After putting up an excellent performance in the U18 tournament, Hughes will play alongside the senior squad in Slovakia. We will see his first action against some of the world’s best talents.
Odds in favor of Canada to win
According to the bookies, Canada is the favorite to win the championships. Canada’s prospects for the gold are high considering their past performance. Canada has won the world championship 20 times since 1931. The country has already scooped 12 silver and 7 bronze medals. This time the Canadians hope to take gold home and are at 3.00 odds of winning.
Last year’s champions Sweden have been performing dismally this season compared to the last season. The bookies put odds at 4.25 for them to win. Russia, who were eliminated in the quarterfinals of 2018, is expected to do better this year. Their chance of winning the championship stands at 4.00.
This means any team can go home with gold. Sweden and Russia have a good chance of challenging Canada and winning the title, and it will be exciting to watch their games.
17 days, 64 games – who is going to win?
I would bet on Canada to win the tournament, based on their history and current form, which is a clear indication that they are equal to the task.
It will be an interesting tournament. Canada’s odds are high but the gold rush will keep the adrenaline of the best sportsmen peak high and anything can happen. The championship will be a thrilling one for hockey fans. The gold medal will be the icing on the cake for the country that emerges victorious.
Photo by Alexey Chernyadyev via Wikicommons (CC BY 3.0)