The World Championship of Hockey is starting tomorrow in Gelsenkirchen, Germany and Expekt.com’s expert Niklas Wikegård is there to follow the matches. He will provide you with the latest news and betting tips during the whole World Championship, stay updated at Niklas Wikegårds blog.
- The World Championship in Germany will be the big focus for the European ice hockey in May and I will pick a double each match-day.
My first bet is though on Russia to win the gold – they are clear favorites in my eyes. Finland is my big outsider in the tournament.
Here is my view on the teams – and don’t miss to follow my betting tips during every match-day in Germany:
My gold favourite
Russia is my title favorite in this World Championship. They flopped in the Olympics, but their squad in Germany has a golden touch with Kovalchuk and Ovechkin among other big guns. In fact, it is a long time ago that I saw such a clear favorite in a World Championship than this Russia and they should make it as long as the players avoid stumbling into the bierstube culture.
My final contenders
Canada has a really exciting team with Mark Messier as GM. Ryan Smith is the squad’s father figure and Mason is a good goalie. The defenders look less impressive but consist of younger, eager players and Buffalo’s Tyler Myers is a truly special player with his height (2.03m) and still being skilled with the puck. Corey Perry is the only player from the Olympic squad and the Canada forward-line is extremely talented with players like Evander Kane and Matt Duchene. The opponents should also watch out for Steve Downey, who is a bit of a mad-man on the ice.
Finland has Jukka Jalonen as head coach and I like his approach; we see a very good connection between the players and the staff in Finland. The squad is well composed and Finland is a clear semi-final candidate and is close to being on the same level as Canada in my books. Jussi Jokinen comes from a strong season in Carolina and will be valuable for the team.
My semi-finals contenders
Sweden has a young and promising side but will not compete about a gold or silver in this tournament. Compared to for example Finland their team is better all through and if Sweden can reach a semi-final they have done more than anyone could ask for, but this adventure could as easily stop in the quarter-finals.
USA has quite an anonymous side in Germany but the players will work hard and use their speed. Jack Johnson is the big star among the defenders and USA will show a lot of attitude but a quarter-final or maximum a semi-final looks likely for the Americans.
Czech Republic has a fantastic ice hockey tradition but this generation is a bit weak and I wonder if the players of today have the same hunger as earlier national teams from this country? The old players looked really tired in the Olympics and I don’t think that this weakened Czech Republic side will have that much to cheer about in Germany to be honest.
Best of the rest
Switzerland starts a new era after the Ralph Kruger époque and Sean Simpson is the new head-coach. Switzerland will be entertaining to watch and the only thing they lack is the killer instinct in front of the goal. We find some of the most promising players in Switzerland: Nino Niederreiter, born -92 and ranked top-3 in the world in that cull, and Roman Wick, the best forward in the Swiss league this season, and most likely he will play in a bigger league next season.
Norway have very well educated players and they have enough skill to kill-off the smaller nations and threaten some of the better teams, but during the span of a long tournament they will not have what it takes.
Slovakia has some skilled players but the lack of depth is extreme in this squad and they can not compete with the best teams.
Belarus will play defensive and tight and will cause some problems for the bigger nations, but not in a bigger way.
Germany will have a massive support and will play with a lot of heart. It will. For the tournament, it would be great if Germany could reach the quarter-finals, but I doubt that they will make it.
Denmark will be just above the bottom side with a couple of international players but also with some much weaker ingredients in the squad. Swedish coach Per Bäckman will play a vital role in how Denmark will succeed against the weaker sides. I turned down an offer to manage Denmark 1.5 years ago and have turned downaround ten offers from four countries during the last five years. I still love being a commentator and expert to much to move back to coaching.
In the bottom
Kazakhstan, France and Italy will struggle to make an impact in the tournament and will be on the losing side in this tournament.
Good Luck and Warm Regards, Niklas Wikegård a.k.a “Mr Hockey“