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2017 World Junior Championship Futures Odds and Picks

Team USA(0-0-0) @ Team Canada(0-0-0)

  • Where: Air Canada Centre and Bell Centre. Toronto, CA and Montreal, CA
  • When: December 26, 2016 1:00 pm EST
  • Moneyline: CAN (-200) USA (+235) Russia (+450) Sweden (-120) Finland (+110)

The IIHF World Championships are the crown jewel of ice hockey in Europe, but go overlooked in much of North America for a host of reasons. The Worlds happen overseas and concurrent to the NHL playoffs, and the league’s TV partners have no interest in putting something on the air that could potentially compete for viewers.

But the annual U20 World Championship tournament known as the “World Juniors” is a holiday TV tradition in Canada and the USA.

People watch the World Juniors for 3 reasons: to cheer for the lads wearing their country’s colours, to follow their favourite NHL or KHL team’s draft picks, and betting. Futures bets on the U20 Worlds are popular, giving cash players a flag to pull for throughout the festive season.

As usual, there are a few likely candidates to rule the group stage. Read on for MSB value picks for futures betting at the 2017 World Junior Championship.

Group B favorites – and a long shot bid

This year’s round-robin draw gives the potential for a madly entertaining group of 5, Group B with Canada, Russia and the United States next to proud 2nd-tier teams from Slovakia and Latvia. There will not be a gimme game for anyone, but history and common sense drive the opening odds.

The Canadians won gold in 2015 but otherwise haven’t medaled since 2011, calling their group-winning odds into question at (-200). Especially since the team didn’t have a top-15 scorer at last year’s WJC. Goaltending is feast or famine in international junior competition, and Team Canada keeper Mackenzie Blackwood had a struggle. The Maple Leaf finished the 2016 tournament with an 85% team save percentage.

Canada will have a fast, burly roster as usual, filled with early-round NHL draft picks. But 1 medal in 5 years doesn’t justify futures plays at (-200) odds.

Team USA could offer better value. Bronze medalists last year, the Yanks won the WJC as recently as 2013. 2017’s lineup is full of power and scoring touch at forward, with Colin White returning to lead a group of quick snipers. Jordan Greenway and Clayton Keller are point-a-game standouts from the NCAA ranks.

Gap-control is not of a high standard in the WJC, giving skaters plenty of momentum over the blue line. It could lead to an explosion of scoring from the U.S. early in the tourney. Goaltending and defence might hold up as well. There is intriguing value on the Americans (+235) to win Group B.

The Russians have a mixed-bag history at the U20. For instance, they lead in the historical medal tally, but only if you count the USSR years. Russia made it to the gold-medal game in 2015 and 2016, but won silver twice, last January’s result a 4-3 overtime heart-breaker to Finland.

Never fear, the rink ruffians in red will once again assail green-horn goaltenders with a mix of NHL and KHL prospects. Alexander Polunin is a dangerous forward who has found success in the Kontinental Hockey League as a teenager.

Russia is also given very modest odds at (+450). They are a definite value bet at the WJC.

Latvia is not a realistic long-shot, but what about Slovakia? They won bronze in 2015, and 17 year-old Adam Ruzicka is considered a burgeoning superstar. But he is probably a year or 2 away from making a real difference, and 2016’s Slovak team was badly out-classed.

Group A – Don’t get torpedoed by the hype

Group A features a study in contrasts – Sweden and Finland, paired next to Switzerland, Denmark and the Czechs. While the Swedes tend to garner more hype internationally, GM Jari Kurri continues to steer the Finnish national program to world championship medals. Last year’s WJC team won the gold, and this time the Finns are ready to feature Montreal 1st-round draft pick Noah Juulsen on defence.

Team Sweden is known for its novel tactics – the “torpedo” formation using 4 forwards and 1 defenceman. Some Canadian pundits are calling the 2017 Swedes “a complete team,” but there are a lot of new faces on the squad along with a new coach, Tomas Monten.

The high expectations are probably due to Sweden’s healthy number of North American junior and minor-league players, such as Alex Nylander who has scored 5 goals for the Rochester Americans this season. Pundits see more upside in home-cooked prospects.

Finland’s odds in Group A are (+110) as defending champs, but Sweden is more heavily favored at (-120). That goes to show the undue influence of NHL scouts over the betting lines. Finland not only offers a higher take but is a better candidate to prevail out of Group A.

The Czechs haven’t medaled in a WJC for over a decade, while Switzerland is the youngest team in the tournament.

Value futures predictions for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship

Team Russia is a terrific value pick in Group B. If you’re from the States and feeling patriotic, give the high-scoring Yankees a unit too. Team Canada may very well win the entire thing, but their group odds are too optimistic.

Group A will go to Finland as experience trumps style.

Wager on the 2017 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship at the Bovada Sportsbook.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.


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