Normally, it would be a little while yet before the next set of IIHF rankings would come out as the World Championships play a big role in those rankings. However, with those tournaments cancelled, they have gone ahead and announced their end-of-year rankings. Viewed on their own, it may not seem all that significant but these rankings also set the groupings for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The groupings (and seedings) are as follows:
Group A: Canada (1), USA (6), Germany (7), China (12)
Group B: Russia (2), Czech Republic (5), Switzerland (8), Qualifier 3 (11)
Group C: Finland (3), Sweden (4), Qualifier 1 (9), Qualifier 2 (10)
Rounding out the top-ten in the current rankings are Slovakia (9) and Latvia (10).
The qualifying tournaments to determine the final three spots started last November and are slated to conclude in late August in Slovakia, Latvia, and Norway although that could certainly be moved depending on the state of the ongoing pandemic. Those groups are:
Group D: Slovakia, Belarus, Austria, Poland
Group E: Latvia, France, Italy, Hungary
Group F: Norway, Denmark, Korea, Slovenia
A final decision on whether or not the NHL will participate in Beijing has not yet been made.
Meanwhile, the rankings were also set on the women’s side and set the brackets for the Olympics. Their side is done a bit differently with the top teams all in the same group for competitive purposes with each of them getting guaranteed advancement to the medal round. The Olympic brackets are as follows:
Group A: USA (1), Canada (2), Finland (3), Russia (4), Switzerland (5)
Group B: Japan (6), Qualifier 1 (7), Qualifier 2 (8), Qualifier 3 (9), China (10)
The Czech Republic (7), Germany (8), Sweden (9), and France (10) round out the top-ten in the current rankings. The first three countries will host the qualifying tournaments which are scheduled for February 2021.