Yesterday we previewed the eight teams that will compete in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and at the end of our preview, we promised our futures pick on the team that we have played to win the tournament. So without further adieu, here is our prediction.
Take Sweden at 6/1 to win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
In our opinion, Sweden is the only team that comes in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey without any major question marks. They got a good Group Stage draw with Finland (no top goalie), North America (no veterans as the team is comprised of players 23 and under) and Russia (who never seems to show up in international play). And when you look at Group A, despite the fact that USA and Canada are there, those teams also have their issues. The United States has been back and forth with their starting goalie; Canada isn't as stacked as they normally are on the blue line, the Czech roster has been ravaged with injuries and Team Europe is a bunch of players who are playing without a country, so to speak.
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That leaves us with the Swedes, who we think have the best top-to-bottom team in the tournament. They have Henrik Lundqvist between the pipes, and their defensive unit is by far the best in the tournament. Two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is the leader and the captain of the team, and he will be manning the back end with guys like Oliver Ekman-Larrson, who will be a future Norris winner, and Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, who led the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. Rounding out the blue line will be Niklas Hjalmarsson, who is a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks, and Mattias Ekholm and Hampus Lindholm, who are two of the best puck-moving defenseman in the NHL.
Up front, the team may not be loaded like the American, Canadian, Russian or North American squads, but there is talent there. Sweden always plays well in these international tournaments, and a big part of that is how they quickly mesh together as a team once these rosters are put together. Teams don't normally have a ton of time to gel in practice, but a lot of these guys have played together since they were six or seven years old back in Sweden before they come over to either play in juniors or in the NHL. There are still big names up front like the Sedin twins, Nicklas Backstrom, Loui Eriksson, Filip Forsberg and Patric Hornqvist. And while Backstrom was the only forward who finished in the Top 20 in NHL scoring, the depth is there for them to make a run.
Throw in the fact that the team has guys (Lundqvist, Sedin twins) that were on the team that won the 2006 Olympic Gold Medal, guys that won the 2013 World Championships (Sedin twins, Loui Eriksson and backup goalie Jacob Markstrom) and guys that finished second to Canada at the 2009 World Juniors (Hedman, Karlsson and Mikael Backlund), and we're taking them here as we think they have the perfect balance of young talent, veteran leadership and international experience to get in done in Toronto over the next few weeks.
Alan Harris has been on the of the top hockey handicappers in the country, winning three of the last four years, and he will be releasing plays throughout the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Those plays will be listed with in the "Other Sports" category on his page starting on Saturday, September 17, 2016, when the puck drops for the tournament.
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