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Olympic Seeding At Play In This Year’s World Championships; USA & Canada Secure Automatic Bids

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators

Seeding for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia is at stake in this year’s World Championships Tournament. Twelve teams will participate in the Olympic Tournament, nine automatic qualifiers plus three winners from “play-in tournaments” starting November 2012 and concluding February 2013.

The nine automatic qualifiers for the ’14 Olympic Games --- along with the seedings for the Olympic Tournament --- will be determined by the IIHF World Rankings at the close of this year’s World Championships. Based on the results of Group Play and Quarterfinals action, the nine teams to earn the automatic bids have been settled; Norway and Slovakia earned the final two spots in the Olympic Pool, joined by the US, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, and Sweden.

Despite having slots secured, today’s Quarterfinals games --- especially Slovakia’s win over Canada and Czech Republic’s win over Sweden --- had a major impact on the match-ups at the next Olympics. With its defeat, Canada lost out on a shot at one of the top-three seeds and will enter the Olympic Tournament as the No. 5 seed. Similarly, Sweden’s loss dropped it from No. 2 in the World Rankings pre-tournament to a No. 4 seed for the ’14 Olympics.

Much like 2010, the 2014 Olympic Tournament will start with a three-game “Group Play” round robin, with the top two teams from each Group -- and two of the three third place teams -- earning a spot in the Quarterfinals. Group A for the '14 Olympics will feature the Nos. 1, 6, and 7 teams in the World Rankings; Group B will feature the Nos. 2, 5, and 8 ranked teams; Group C will feature the Nos. 3, 4, and 9 ranked teams.

Heading into the Saturday’s Semifinals, six of the nine slots for the Olympic Groupings are set, the only three slots still to be determined are the top three seeds, with current world No. 1 Finland, current No. 3 Russia, and current No. 4 Czech Republic all in the running to hold the world’s top ranking based on the results from the Semifinal and Gold/Bronze Medal games.

World Championship Impact
There were some subtle changes to the World Rankings based on this year's World Championships, but those changes had a big shake out in the pairings for the Olympics. Here's how the pairings looked based on World Rankings entering this year's World Championships:

Group A -- Finland, USA, Switzerland + 1 qualifier
Group B -- Sweden, Canada, Germany
+ 1 qualifier
Group C -- Russia, Czech Republic, Norway
+ 1 qualifier

So, here’s what’s already established:
Group A – No. 1 Seed (FIN/RUS/CZE) + No. 6/7 USA and No. 6/7 Slovakia + 1 qualifier
Group B – No. 2 Seed (RUS/FIN/CZE) + No. 5 Canada and No. 8 Norway + 1 qualifier
Group C – No. 3 Seed (CZE/FIN/RUS) + No. 4 Sweden and No. 9 Switzerland + 1 qualifier

Slovakia, still alive in the Semifinals, was the big winner at this year’s World Championships, rising from No. 10 --- a seed that would have had to qualify through a series of tournaments next year --- up into the top-nine and a guaranteed qualification into the Olympics. Slovakia’s success came at the expense of Team Germany; the Germans entered the World Championships as the No. 8 team in the World Rankings, but will fall to No. 10 after their showing in Group Play this year --- one slot shy of an automatic big into the Olympic Tournament.

So for all the Olympic Hockey fans out there, this weekend in Helsinki may hold the keys to the medal hopes for a few countries.

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