- Canada is favored but they didn’t even finish in the top 3 in 2019
- Finland has won this tournament in three of the last six years
- Canada’s roster is loaded with a few players who will be drafted at the top of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft
The odds for the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship are out and guess who’s favored? Canada is once again at the top of the board but the United States, Russia and Sweden are not far behind. Canada has won the gold 17 of the 43 tournaments but are they worth a bet here as the chalk?
2020 IIHF World Junior Championship Odds
Odds taken Dec. 4
Canada Has Not Been a Good Bet Recently
It’s well-known that the Canadians field the most-talented roster each year and every year. Almost every time we’re starting the conversation about the World Junior Championship, the topic starts with how talented Canada is and who is going to stop them.
However, they’ve been stopped quite frequently of late as it’s actually Finland that is the defending champs at this tournament. Canada didn’t even finish in the top three last go around. While the Canadians did claim the gold in 2018, that was just their second in the last ten years.
Canada is typically viewed like the United States are in basketball at the Summer Olympics but they’re not delivering on that level. Of course, they won five years in a row from 2005 to 2009, but the landscape has changed since then. Six different countries have won over the last ten years.
Finland Returns as Defending Champs
Although we’re not quite sure if it’s going to maintain but we’ve definitely seen a changing of the guards at this tournament. Finland is the defending champion and they’ve actually claimed the gold at this event in three of the last six years. However, when you take a look at the odds, they’re fifth in line.
They were great between the pipes last time around with Ukko-Pekka Luukonen posting a 1.80 GAA and .932 save percentage. Jusus Annunen, who is a prospect with the Colorado Avalanche, could be just as good. He’s been awesome in the top Finnish League and he won a gold with the team at the 2018 World U18 Hockey Championship.
They should have a formidable blue line led by Ville Heinola, who is a first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets. He’ll be joined by a number of other recent draftees like Lassi Thomson (Ottawa Senators), Mikko Kokkonen (Toronto Maple Leafs), Anttoni Honka (Carolina Hurricanes), Toni Utunen (Vancouver Canucks) and Kim Nousiainen (Los Angeles Kings).
My concern is up front where they lost a lot of firepower with guys like Aleksi Heponiemi, as well as Kaapo Kakko and Eeli Tolvanen who really led the way last year. Their back end is as good as anyone but I think their scoring will lack a little bit.
Canada Needs a No. 1 Goalie
Goaltending figures to be the No. 1 issue for Canada as they haven’t had a clear-cut netminder since Carter Hart a couple of years ago. As camps have gotten underway, it’s unclear who’ll step up into that role. This is the team’s biggest concern.
Up front, this unit is loaded. There are 12 NHL first-round picks in camp along with eight others who are draft-eligible. Alexis Lafreniere is just one of three players back from last year’s team and he’s going to be counted upon. He currently leads the QMJHL with 59 points in 28 games.
Lafreniere is currently among the favorites to be the top pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft along with Quinton Byfield, a center who is also going to be on Canada’s roster and winger Cole Perfetti.
What’s the Best Bet?
There are a lot of good teams in the tournament nowadays and the gap between Canada and everyone else isn’t as wide as it used to be. At the same time, I do think Canada is the best bet here. Talent is rarely an issue with this team but I do expect them to be very motivated and focused this time around.
As the host team last year, Canada completely flopped as they didn’t even finish with a medal of any kind – let alone gold. The last two times that’s happened, Canada won the tournament and lost in the gold medal game the following year. I’m expecting that type of effort here again, so I’ll bet them to beat Finland in the final, and win the gold.
Best Bet: Canada (+240)
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