For baseball fans, Boxing Day is almost like Christmas 2.0. The holidays can at times make us tired, like once you end up spending your entire paycheck on gifts and then listening to your family complain about how they didn’t like their gift (I thought you liked candles, Mom!) . So, when December 26 rolls round, hockey fans know it’s time to move on from the gift-giving and find a gift they’ll really enjoy with the yearly IIHF world junior hockey tournament. Here are the four groups that bettors must have on their radar to acquire the 42nd edition of this championship.
UNITED STATES (+125)
The champion and favorite on BetOnline, the United States is a choice to take home the gold in this year’s tourney. They’ll be returning goaltender Joseph Woll, who was on the squad this past year and was excellent in the 2 matches he played. The main incentive for this year’s edition of the U.S. roster is they’re returning seven players from this past year. At forward, they will be led by Buffalo Sabres draft pick Casey Mittelstadt, who’ll get to skate in front of his home lovers that were upcoming. Bettors should be aware, though, that no team has won gold since 2009.
Normally, I’d be all over this pick but the history of choking in the moment deters me. The Canadian team dropped to the U.S. squad this past year at a shootout after holding two different two-goal leads. Where the Canadians will probably be piled is on the blue line as all their defensemen were drafted in the top 15 in recent NHL drafts. Though the Canucks have won this tourney 16 times, they haven’t won it 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 previous four championships and could be a sneaky pick for bettors trying to cash in on the”every other year” trend. The Finns will be put to create it out of the group point and are placed in Group A with the Americans, Slovakians and Canadians. Their expected starting goaltender, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, is a Sabres draft pick along with the Buffalo crowd will want to get a look at Robin Lehner’s potential replacement. Miro Heiskanen, the third overall pick in the 2017 draft, are also back on the blue line for the Finns and their forwards depth should carry them nicely with five returning forward from last year’s squad.
The last time that the world championship was in Buffalo, back in 2011, the Russians dominated and took the gold. However, this year’s squad doesn’t have the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeni Kuznetsov and Artemi Panarin out there commanding. While 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 feat when they do not have generational talent hitting the ice. One of their defensemen was drafted by an NHL team and nearly all of the rearguards will come in the KHL. In +650, you would be better served to spend your Christmas money.
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