to make it fair" rule got mixed reviews.
This year's tournament, which got underway yesterday, is being co-hosted by Finland and Sweden. And as always, most of the coverage has focused as much on the intrigue around which players would accept invitations to represent their countries. With the roster still in flux even after the tournament starts, it can be tough to separate the also-rans from the contenders.
Here's a closer look at the six countries favored to take home the medals.
RussiaTeam outlook: While the roster does feature Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Dastyuk, experts agree that the lack of a third-line center could be a major issue for the 30 or 40 seconds a game that they'll need one.
Key player: Team officials can't figure out why Ilya Bryzgalov hasn't shown up yet, since based on a look at his stats from the first round the Flyers clearly lost in four straight.
Prediction: While the players acknowledge that being under a microscope is just part of playing for Russia internationally, they're still not sure why Barry Trotz keeps showing up at their hotel and asking the front desk if he can have a look at their key cards.
SwedenTeam outlook: As always, the players will focus on the three tenets of Swedish international hockey: a high-tempo offense, a team-wide commitment to defense, and skating by their goaltender every few seconds to yell "Hey, just making sure but you're not Tommy Salo, right?"
Key player: Pekka Rinne, since he was kind enough to make sure the entire Detroit Red Wings roster was available.
Prediction: Daniel Alfredsson finds himself hoping for a matchup against Canada in Stockholm, since it would be a nice change of pace to play a home game against a team wearing maple leafs without being booed.
FinlandTeam outlook: As the defending champion, they'll no doubt be just fine unless their goalie decides to start posting about politics on Facebook.
Key player: Mikko Koivu will make an excellent captain for this sort of tournament, since as Minnesota Wild fans know he's great at inspiring a team to get all its wins out of the way in the first two weeks.
Prediction: Teemu Selanne gets an enthusiastic response when he steps onto the ice after carefully considering the team's invitation, before being informed by the security guard that the tournament has actually been over for four months.
Czech RepublicTeam outlook: The team enters the tournament without having a single NHL-quality defenceman or goaltender on the roster. Or, as Ales Hemsky calls it, "business as usual".
Key player: Veteran Petr Nedved will play a key role for the Czechs, unless he winds up in a contract dispute with the Canucks in which case he'll somehow wind up representing Canada.
Prediction: As with most international tournaments, it will all come down to how effectively they can kill off all of their "Too many Jakubs on the ice" penalties.
USATeam outlook: The team initially wanted to build a roster that included all of the nation's very best NHL players, but organizers informed them that they couldn't really ice a lineup consisting entirely of goalies.
Key player: The team expects big things from Paul Stastny, as long as he can avoid his two bad habits that have plagued him at recent tournaments: constantly making secret hand signals at his father and uncles, and repeatedly shooting the puck into his own net whenever Team USA faces the Slovaks.
Prediction: Team captain Jack Johnson struggles on offence when every slapshot he takes misses the net and shatters whichever out-of-town scoreboard is displaying that night's Los Angeles Kings game.
CanadaTeam outlook: The blueline will rely heavily on Maple Leafs' defencemen like Luke Schenn and Dion Phaneuf, according to what starting goaltender Cam Ward seemed to be yelling hysterically while sprinting away from the first practice carrying his passport and suitcase.
Key player: John Tavares will be looking to have a big tournament, since as the New York Islanders' franchise player he knows he's only going to get 15 or 20 more shots at this.
Prediction: As a Canadian hockey fan, you'll wait until you know who's playing in the gold medal game before deciding whether this is one of those years you think this tournament is important or not.