2014 Winter Olympic hockey rankings: Canada the favorite, but Sweden close

The jersey is still pretty ugly. - Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The men's hockey tournament in the Sochi Winter Olympics begins on Feb. 12, and with everything finally set in stone, we can evaluate the rosters and look at the chances each country has of winning it all.

1. Canada

Previously ranked: 1

Since we last checked in on Canada, it lost a major contributor in Steven Stamkos. Stamkos was ruled out of competition due to complications arising from his broken tibia, as doctors ruled that there was too great of a risk of reinjury. Chosen to replace him was Martin St. Louis, previously one of the biggest snubs of the tournament, who at 38 years old is somehow the NHL's highest point-getter between the last Olympics and these ones.

Canada also boasts the hottest goaltender coming into the tournament in Carey Price, who was the NHL's first star of the week last week, and has a .967 save percentage in his last six starts behind a porous Montreal defense. Something tells me he'll be better protected with Drew Doughty, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith patrolling his slot.

2. Sweden

Previously ranked: 3

The snub of Victor Hedman still looms large for Sweden, whose defense outside of Niklas Kronwall is of the soft variety. On international ice, however, that matters less than NHL fans are used to. The puck-moving ability of Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson should help a lot, and OEL has begun to find his game after a brutal start. Karlsson remains the most dominant offensive defenseman in the NHL, and the international ice should fit with his positional defensive style.

Losing Henrik Sedin to injury will hurt Sweden, but with Henrik Zetterberg, Nicklas Backstrom and Patrik Berglund down the middle, it should survive. Losing Johan Franzen to injury also hurts the Swedes, who have very few players capable of providing his physical edge. Physicality will be their weakness, if you can catch them.

3. United States

Previously ranked: 2

Team USA hasn't suffered the injuries that other countries have, or at least not to the point of keeping players out. Left winger Max Pacioretty took a brutal tumble into the post in the first period of the Habs' last game before the break and didn't return. Pacioretty insists that he's OK, but it looked bad. As the highest per-minute goal scorer on the American team, and the highest even-strength goal scorer, Pacioretty being hobbled could hurt.

What could hurt more, though, is the American defensive corps, which is far weaker than it should be. That defense is probably good enough to support a medal effort in front of Ryan Miller, but if the USA goes with Jonathan Quick, who has been a below-league-average goaltender for the last two years, it becomes more of a question.

4. Russia

Previously ranked: 4

So much pressure is on the Russians to win gold. They're being compared to the Canadian team in Vancouver four years ago, but even though there's always pressure on Canada, it had won a gold medal eight years prior, and a World Cup six years prior.

Russia has not won a best-on-best tournament in hockey since the fall of the Soviet Union, with its last Olympic gold coming in 1988. The Russians haven't medaled in the Olympics since a bronze in 2002, with their best finish in the NHL era being a silver in 1998.

Russian media has made it known that this is the event that matters in Sochi, but does the host country have the roster to accomplish it? The goaltending and top-end forwards are great, but the defense is fairly weak, with only two top pairing NHL defensemen on the roster, with Andrei Markov being 35 years old.

It's going to be very tough for Russia to medal at all, let alone win it all.

5. Czech Republic

Previously ranked: 6

Captain Tomas Plekanec will be playing with his best friend, the ageless Jaromir Jagr, on the top line, as the normally veteran-heavy Czechs continue to have that component while also boasting a nice little youth movement. The injury to Tomas Hertl likely threw a wrench in their plans to get a little younger, but the emergence of Ondrej Palat is very real, and their most dominant player could end up being 24-year-old Jakub Voracek.

The Czechs are the opposite of Sweden on defense, with a fairly large, immobile group headlined by Zbynek Michalek, with veteran puck movers in Tomas Kaberle and Marek Zidlicky. They're going to have to block a lot of shots if they want to win with Ondrej Pavelec in net. (Then again, will Pavelec be in net?)

6. Finland

Previously ranked: 5

Losing the veteran presence of Saku Koivu hurt when he announced that he didn't feel healthy enough to compete, but losing his younger brother Mikko Koivu to a lingering injury took Finland's line center out of the Games. To lose Valtteri Filppula the very next day was absolutely crippling.

Koivu and Filppula were set to be Finland's top two centers, and to add insult to injury, when Finland asked Sean Bergenheim to join the squad, he refused. Finnish legend Teemu Selanne was named Koivu's replacement as team captain, but he's 43 years old and on pace for the worst season of his NHL career.

With the amount of skill the Finns have lost, they will need to get back to basics and play a committed team game, while relying on Tuukka Rask to steal games for them. As great as Rask is, he doesn't have to steal many games in Boston.

7. Slovakia

Previously ranked: 7

Losing Marian Gaborik and Lubomir Visnovsky is enough to pretty much rule out the possibility of Slovakia repeating its Cinderella performance of 2010, where the team finished fourth and played in the bronze medal game.

At the very least, however, goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj are both hot going into the Olympics. Halak has a .938 save percentage in his last six games, whereas Budaj is rocking a .962 save percentage in his last three games. Slovakia will need to lean heavily on Zdeno Chara defensively, who may be exposed a little bit on the big ice, along with youngsters like Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco.

8. Switzerland

Previously ranked: 8

The Swiss play a highly dedicated, team-oriented defensive game, which should fit well with the lack of individual offensive talent on their roster. Damien Brunner and Nino Niederreiter do provide an offensive spark up front, but the Swiss will need to be opportunistic as always, and will likely rely heavily on a power play that boasts three efficient point men in Mark Streit, Raphael Diaz and Yannick Weber.

9. Austria

Previously ranked: 9

If Austria wins against Norway, it'll probably consider its Olympics appearance a great success, and with Thomas Vanek and Michael Raffl up front, it might have a couple of players skilled enough to accomplish that.

10. Norway

Previously ranked: 10

Norway is always surprisingly effective at these kinds of tournaments, and a guy like Mats Zuccarello will likely surprise you, as will former NHLer Patrick Thoresen. Norway surprised everyone with its resilience in the Vancouver Olympics, as Tore Vikingstad (now retired, unfortunately) captured the hearts of fans with an unlikely scoring outburst.

11. Latvia

Previously ranked: 11

Zemgus Girgensons and Kaspars Daugavins are the only current NHL players for Latvia, but the team's general skill level is usually high compared to the other lower-tier countries that qualify for these events. The Latvians don't have a game-breaking talent, but could grind out an upset if others aren't careful.

12. Slovenia

Previously ranked: 12

All hail Anze Kopitar, who is the be-all, end-all for the Slovenian team. Slovenia seems to be the team that everyone is secretly rooting for, but simply staying competitive would be a huge success for it. Don't expect Slovenia to beat anyone.

More on the Winter Olympics:

SB Nation's Winter Olympics medal tracker | Meet Team USA

Meet Ashley Wagner, the Olympics' first genuine meme

What you need to know about figure skating | Figure skating schedule

Miracle Put on Ice: 1984 US hockey team never had a chance

Hockey: Men’s schedule | All 12 men’s rosters | USA roster analysis

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