Upcoming Match-ups

Russia vs United States World Juniors Odds, Picks, and How to Watch

Kevin Allen

by Kevin Allen in News

Dec 24, 2020 · 7:24 AM PST

Finland's Toni Utunen, right, challenges Cole Caufield of the US during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds quarterfinal match between Finland and the United States in Trinec, Czech Republic, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
  • Russia is a 1.5-goal favorite against USA in their Christmas Day match-up (9:30 PM EST) at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta
  • You can watch the game on NHL  Network. The NHL Network will provide daily coverage of the WJC, which features the world’s best teen-age NHL prospects
  • Here are the odds, the best bet, and information on how to watch the game.

When USA plays Russia in its opening Group B game of the World Junior Championship, it will be a preview of coming NHL attractions in goal.

Russia’s Jaroslav Askarov (Nashville Predators) and USA’s Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) are the NHL’s two best young goaltending prospects. The game will be broadcast on NHL Network at 9:30 PM EST with Stephen Nelson providing play-by-play and Dave Starman offering analysis. Plus, Jill Savage provides in-game reports.

USA has a losing record against Russia in WJC history and Russia is favored to win Group B. The Russians are 1.5-goal favorites. But the Americans have won the last five meetings, including last year’s 3-1 triumph.

USA vs Russia Odds

Team Moneyline Spread Total
USA -111 +1.5 (-333) Over 5.5 (+115)
Russia -111 -1.5 (+245) Under 5.5 (-143)

Odds taken Dec. 24 at DraftKings

Michigan Freshman Beniers Could be USA’s Sleeper

On a team with nine first-round picks, undrafted Matthew Beniers is easy to overlook. But it’s impossible to overlook Beniers once you see him in action.

Creative Beniers is a powerful skater who is equally proficient as a scorer or a playmaker. He is a natural center. Plus, he wins puck battles in the corners. The sum of his abilities is why NHL scouts believe he will be selected among the top 10 players in the 2021 NHL draft.

Beniers is expected to center USA’s second line at the WJC. One possibility is Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings) would center the top line with Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks). In addition, Beniers would end up centering Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild) and Cole Caufield.

Larionov Will Expect Creativity, Demand Proficiency

When Igor Larionov was in his prime, he was one of the world’s most magical players. He was slick, creative, and never at a loss for a way to excel offensively. But he was also a very disciplined defensive player.

The expectation is Larionov will have a heavy impact as coach of Russia’s WJC team. We would anticipate that Larionov’s team, led by Vancouver Canucks draft pick Vasily Podkolzin, will have a dynamic offense.

But Larionov has selected a team that should be strong defensively. The Russians always have high expectations for this tournament. They have won a medal in 14 of the past 16 tournaments. Russia lost to Canada in the Final last season.

USA’s Defense Boasts Overflowing Skill

The American defense clearly has the NHL’s stamp of approval. Seven of the nine American defensemen were drafted in the first 47 picks of the 2019 or 2020 drafts.

The defensive group includes first-rounders Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres), Jake Sanderson (Ottawa Senators), and Cam York (Philadelphia Flyers).

It has size to go along with the skill: six of the players are 6-foot-2 or taller, including Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators) who is 6-foot-4. In other words, the Americans will have an all-purpose defense.

This Game Should be Considered a Toss-up

Given recent history and the number of premium NHL prospects on both teams, it doesn’t feel like Russia should be a 1.5-goal favorites. These teams should match-up well. As a result, the outcome probably will be determined by one of the goalies outperforming the other.

Pick: USA Moneyline (-111)

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