Do you believe in miracles?
The world’s best winter athletes have descended on Pyeongchang until 25th February but those that are contracted to the NHL will not be a part of the Men’s Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament. This is the first time there will be no NHL players at the Olympics since Lillehammer in 1994 but there are still several players to keep an eye out for in what should still be a fascinating tournament.
Format of the Tournament
Teams will be in 3 groups of 4 teams as follows:
Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, Switzerland, South Korea
Group B: Olympic Athletes from Russia, USA, Slovakia, Slovenia
Group C: Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany
Following the group stage where each team plays every team its group once, the teams will be ranked from 1-12. The top 4 ranked teams will advance to quarter finals and then the remaining 8 teams will go head to head in 4 elimination games to decide the 4 teams that will also advance to the quarter finals. The winners of those quarter finals will advance to 2 semi finals and then play for the right to compete for the gold medal. Games not decided in regulation will go to overtime and then a shootout if necessary.
Who to watch?
Ilya Kovalchuk (Olympic Athletes of Russia)
Ilya played several years in the NHL before going to the KHL in 2013. Ilya figures to be one of the most potent scoring threats on a very strong team from the Olympic Athletes of Russia. He averaged exactly a point a game in 816 games in the NHL and is a decorated player on the International stage as well.
Rasmus Dahlin (Sweden)
Rasmus has come on the scene and has yet to play in the NHL. He is regarded as the top prospect in this year’s NHL draft and will likely go number 1 overall. Rasmus shone in the World Junior’s this past winter and the excitement levels have grown with him being picked to play for Sweden in Korea. NHL scouts will be keeping a very close eye on him again here as he looks to build on his growing reputation.
Brian Gionta (USA)
Brian has the most experience of anyone on the US squad and that will be very important in this tournament. He last played in the NHL last season with Buffalo and looks to lead this US team on an unlikely run to the latter stages of the tournament. Whilst this wouldn’t quite be the ‘Miracle on Ice’ of 1980, it would be an upset should the US get a medal.
Who takes home the medals?
I think it’s very hard to look past the Olympic Athletes of Russia for the Gold. Outside of that I think Sweden, Canada and Finland will fight it out for the other medals.