Arguably, the Men’s Ice Hockey tournament is the sports-betting highlight of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. So join us as we breakdown the groups in order to deliver our value hockey picks for the preliminary rounds and beyond.

NHL Picks: Olympic Men's Hockey Future Odds

Top FIVE Tournament Favourites: Canada +180, Russia +200, Sweden +550, USA +700 and jointly Finland and Czech Republic at +1300.

Tournament format: The preliminary round serves up group action with teams within each group facing off against one another. The top four teams from the preliminary round advance into the quarterfinals while the remaining eight teams will play a sudden-death playoff for the other four spots in the quarterfinals.

Sweden have Group C cornered on -200 hockey odds or thereabouts across all sportsbooks but with three out of four teams priced on triple digits to win Group C, one could argue this is the most wide open group and the Swedes credentials will be sorely tested. So let’s breakdown Group C in order to determine how each team could stack up when all is said and done in the preliminaries.

Group C analysis with both odds to win outright and to win Group C

Sweden +550, -200 to win Group C

Sweden, 2006 Gold medallists, enter Group action as the top favourites at -200 at Bet365 to win Group C and the third overall favourites to win the competition proper. Underscoring their fancied hockey odds is their recent victory on the World Championships stage, winning Gold in the 2013 instalment of the IIHF competition at the expense of the tournament’s surprise package Switzerland. Over the course of the tournament, Sweden beat Canada 3-2 in the quarterfinals and Finland 3-0 in the semis before disembowelling Switzerland 5-1. Arguably, it was one of the best performances by a Swedish side on the world stage. It’s worth noting, Sweden hosted the competition.

More or less the same outfit is representing Sweden at the Olympics but injury concerns have taken some of the shine off their overall odds. Henrik Sedin is out with a rib injury while Johan Franzen is out with a concussion. Still, this is a solid team worth its weight in Gold and if they punch at their weight class they should win this group.

Czech Republic +1300, +200 to win Group C

Sportsbooks send Czech Republic into Group C action as the second favourites at +200 to win outright. However, the case against the Czech rests heavily on age – or so maintain hockey experts and pundits alike. The main culprits: Jaromir Jagr (41) and Petr Nedved (42) are responsible for skewing the mean age. Marek Zidlicky (37), Patrik Elias (37), Tomas Kaberle (35) and Martin Rozsival (35) add to that conspicuous upward lean. These seasoned veterans however bring a lot of experience at this level to the table as well as experience from both NHL and European hockey action. Heck, Jagr alone is making his fifth appearance at the Olympics; the highlight of his illustrious career was winning Gold in Nagano. That has to count for something. Moreover, the team does include some bright young talent as well including Hemsky, Frolik, Krejci and Hanzal to name a few. So don’t go writing them off just yet. As Petr Nedved succinctly put it, “We didn’t come here to watch.”

Switzerland +3300, +900 to win Group C

Switzerland are the quintessential dangerous floaters, not only in Group C but also in the competition proper. After finishing runners-up to Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Championships, their stock value in hockey betting markets improved considerably. It’s worthwhile noting they beat Czech Republic and USA respectively en route to the final. That being said, the Swiss will have all to do to follow up that performance with another convincing run in Sochi. Then again, it could just come down to a lucky bounce here and there.

Latvia +50000, +19900 to win Group C

The Latvians are listed the hallucinatory +19900 hockey bet to win Group C – hockey odds that are country mile away from the rest of the section’s field of opposition. If that doesn’t give you a sense of the task before them, nothing will. This is a tough group and nothing but a bottom finish is expected, not unlike their account at the Vancouver Olympics where they finished fourth and pointless in a similarly tough group.

The sudden-death qualification playoffs for a spot in the quarterfinal is another matter entirely. In Vancouver, Latvia came close to advancing only to lose 3-2 to the Czech Republic. Another favourable matchup and with all to play for yet in the competition, who’s to say they might not enjoy a Cinderella run into the quarters.

Group C Betting Predictions: Predictably Sweden are the favourites, earned largely by their recent performance at the World’s. Still, it’s hard to ignore their injury woes. Czech Republic, meanwhile, are being written off by the ageists. But isn’t it better to be an older and wiser team than one riddled and hobbled by injury? We certainly think so. That’s why we believe the Czech Republic could prove to be the smart hockey pick at +200 to win Group C. Or, for that matter, even the defensive-minded Swiss, listed at +900 to win Group C, could potentially surprise hockey bettors.

Group C Hockey Picks: 1. Czech Republic, 2. Sweden, 3. Switzerland, 4. Latvia