For baseball fans, Boxing Day is like Christmas 2.0. The holidays can sometimes make us tired, like once you wind up spending your entire paycheck on presents and then listening to a family complain about how they did not like their present (I thought you enjoyed candles, Mom!) . So, when December 26 rolls round, hockey fans know it’s time to proceed from the gift-giving and find a present they will really enjoy with the annual IIHF world junior hockey championship. Here are the four teams that bettors must have in their radar to win the 42nd edition of the tournament.
UNITED STATES (+125)
Favorite on BetOnline and the champion, the United States is a decent choice to take home the gold again. They’ll be returning goaltender Joseph Woll, who was on the squad last year and was excellent in the two games he played. The primary plus for this season’s edition of the U.S. roster is they’re returning seven players from last year. At forward, Buffalo Sabres draft pick Casey Mittelstadt, who’ll get to skate in front of his upcoming home lovers’ll leads them. Bettors should know that no team has won back-to-back gold.
Normally, I’d be all over this selection but the current history of choking in the big minute deters me from financing my brethren. The Canadian team fell to the U.S. squad last year in a shootout after holding two separate two-goal leads. Where the Canadians will probably be stacked is on the blue line as all of their defensemen were drafted in the top 15 in recent NHL drafts. While the Canucks have won this tourney 16 times, they haven’t won it all since 2015 and at this value, the juice likely isn’t worth the squeeze.
A value pick, Finland has won gold in two of the last four championships and could be a sneaky pick for bettors looking to profit on the”every other year” trend. The Finns will be put to the test to create it out of the group stage and are put in Group A with the Americans, Slovakians and Canadians. Their anticipated starting goaltender, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, is a Sabres draft pick along with the Buffalo crowd will want to obtain a look at Robin Lehner’s potential replacement. Miro Heiskanen, the third overall pick in the 2017 draft, are also back to the blue line for the Finns and their forward depth should carry them well with five returning forwards from last year’s squad.
The last time the world junior championship was at Buffaloback in 2011, the Russians dominated and took the gold. However, this year’s squad does not have the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Artemi Panarin out there commanding. Although this year’s version has plenty of skilled forward, it may be too much of an uphill struggle to see that the Russians replicate that accomplishment when they don’t have generational talent hitting the ice. An NHL team has drafted only one of their defensemen and most of the rearguards will come from the KHL. At +650, you’d be better served to spend your Christmas money.
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