Handicapping the NHL: 2022 Olympic Preview

Handicapping the NHL: 2022 Olympic Preview

This article is part of our NHL Picks series.

RotoWire's AJ Scholz runs through the Men's and Women's 2022 Olympic Hockey Tournament, including a breakdown of the favorites, underdogs and long shots with odds courtesy of the FanDuel Sportsbook

Women's Tournament - Feb. 3

The Favorites: Since the Women's tournament was added at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, it's been all Canada or the United States with the ladies from the Great White North holding the edge at 4-2. In fact, only in 2006 has any other team secured even a silver medal when Sweden beat the United States in the shootout to secure a place in the gold-medal game which they then lost to Canada by a resounding 4-1 margin. Things aren't expected to be any different this time around with the Canadians the favorite at -125 followed by Team USA at -105. Led by Brianna Decker and Hillary Knight, both of whom took home gold in Pyeongchang, it makes sense to back the US team for the slightly better odds considering it will almost certainly come down to these two in the final. 

The Underdogs: While Finland comes in third in terms of best odds to win, it's not even close as they are +1500 to win the gold medal. The team will feature powerhouse defender and 10-year captain Jenni Hiirikoski but considering this squad was absolutely trounced in the semifinal matchup with the United States four years ago by a 5-0 margin, it's probably not realistic to give them a shot even given the long odds. At that point, hoping for an upset in the semifinals, you'd be better off looking at ROC whose chances of making the goal-medal game are just as slim but return +4000 value. 

Favorite Opening Game Bets: The money lines among the first four games of the preliminary round are just too outrageous to even look at when you consider Canada doesn't even have one but at -5.5 against the spread versus Switzerland, USA is -1800 against Finland and the Czech Republic is -1400 in its matchup with host China. Despite the large spread, the Swiss are actually the fifth-ranked team in the world, so I don't hate taking them +5.5 goals at -110, though I think I'd rather look to the Swedes to win by .5 at +122 backed by 2019 Swedish Player of the Year Emma Nordin. I'd even consider looking to the alternate line in this one and take Sweden -1.5 goal to get +245 value. 

Men's Tournament - Feb. 9

The Favorites: If the Women's Tournament is a two-horse race, the men's side is anything but, especially with everything being flipped on its head after the NHL ruled out sending players over to Bejing.  Without the world's best players, ROC is actually the favorite at +150 which shouldn't come as a surprise considering its roster is made up entirely of KHL players. The roster includes several former NHL players, including Vadim Shipachyov, whose NHL stint was so short most people won't even remember it, but has racked up 24 goals and 43 assists in 48 KHL games this year. This team won gold in Pyeongchang in 2018, which was also played without NHL players, so it's hard to bet against them when you can get 3/2 value. 

The Underdogs: Canada and Finland round out the top three at +340 and +380, respectively, and both are certainly worth a look. The Canadians will be captained by Stanley Cup champion and 2010 gold medalist Eric Staal who may be looking to parlay the tournament into an NHL deal for the rest of the season. In addition to a handful of former-NHL roster veterans, Canada's roster will also feature 2021 first-overall pick Owen Power. For their part, the Finns roster is also primarily filled out with KHL players and includes the likes of Leo Komarov, Markus Granlund and Valtteri Filppula, all of whom have played their fair share of NHL games. While I still tend to favor betting on the ROC at +150, there is certainly an argument to be made for either of these two squads given their potential return on investment. 

The United States: To say Team USA is an underdog in this tournament would certainly be an understatement when you consider they come in at +1200, which is the sixth-best at the FanDuel Sportsbook. This team isn't without its intriguing players to watch, among them 2020 fifth-overall pick Jake Sanderson but goaltending is going to be a serious problem considering their options are 19-year-old Drew Commesso, undrafted Strauss Mann or Pat Nagle, who was born in the late '80s. Is it worth some national pride for a shot at +1200, sure, but is it a realistic option, probably not. 

Favorite Opening Game Bets: Generally when looking at the Puckline (spread), I like to try to get some positive value but I don't mind giving up a little juice to get ROC at -1.5 for -118 over Switzerland. It's the opening game of the Group Stage but the ROC should cruise through these games straight into the playoff round. Team USA will ease into the tournament with a clash with China which finds them -1000 on the Moneyline. Instead of going that route, look to the alternate 6.5 total to go over at +126. The Chinese team is made up of native-born players along with a number of Canada and US-born players that qualify by nature of playing in the KHL for Kunlun Red Star. To be blunt, this team is going to get crushed by Canada, the United States and Germany in Group A. Still, with Team USA's sketchy goaltending, the Chinese team could snag at least a goal while the Americans reach the total the rest of the way. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AJ Scholz
Co-Host of PuckCast with Statsman and AJ and unabashed Penguins fan.
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