Sweden added five players who had good playoff performances to their World Cup roster, including Stanley Cup finalists Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin. With a well-rounded roster and plenty of speed, Sweden could be considered an early favorite to take the tournament.
If you’re having a hard time comprehending how strong the Swedish roster will be at the World Cup, consider the omissions. Following Friday’s final announcement, standout blueliner John Klingberg won’t be on the roster. Neither will Gustav Nyquist, Mika Zibanejab, Victor Rask, Mikael Backlund or Rickard Rakell. All six are among the top 20 Swedish scorers in the NHL.
What appears to have been the difference-maker in the selection of Team Sweden is playing in high-pressure situations, which is to say if you played — and played well — in the 2015-16 post-season, you definitely helped your chances of making Team Sweden. Five of the additions Friday fit that bill.
Patric Hornqvist and Carl Hagelin have helped power the Pittsburgh Penguins to an Eastern Conference championship and Stanley Cup final appearance and are nice additions for different reasons. Hagelin’s speed, as we saw throughout the Eastern Conference final, can create problems for opposing defenses and he’s the type of player who can fit in on a line with just about anyone as a puck-retrieving player. That he’s chipped in five goals and 12 points in 18 games this post-season also doesn’t hurt, and this after he managed 10 goals and 27 points in 37 games for the Penguins following a mid-season trade.
On the other hand is Hornqvist, who’s nowhere near as fleet of foot as Hagelin but has a nose for the front of the net and is the perfect option to play alongside someone who can get him the puck. Maybe the Sedin twins, for instance. His 22 goals and 51 points show he still has that scoring touch, and he’s second on the Penguins with seven goals this post-season.
Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who earned the final defense spot over players like Klingberg, Hampus Lindholm, Adam Larsson and Johnny Oduya, showed two-way ability in both the upset series victory over the Anaheim Ducks and the seven-game battle against the San Jose Sharks. He’s likely to play a limited role, but with the way he played during the playoffs, he could still be an impact player. He had three goals and seven points in the playoffs.
Anaheim Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg also earned his spot in part thanks to a 20-goal, 39-point campaign that was followed up with five points in the seven-game opening-round series against Nashville. Silfverberg’s got the defensive skills to go along with his scoring touch, and that makes him a great third- or fourth-line option for Sweden.
And then there’s Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger, who might be a surprise to some to make the roster over the more offensively gifted players. Kurger, however, is one of the best possession players in the league and brings a steadying defensive presence. He’s not going to factor into the offense — if he scores a goal, it will be his first since his triple-overtime winner against Anaheim — but that’s not what he’s there for. He’ll be at the World Cup to win faceoffs, kill penalties and take on tough defensive zone starts.
There are two additions who didn’t play in the post-season at all, though: Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner and Colorado Avalanche center Carl Soderberg. The reasons for those inclusions aren’t hard to understand, though.
Soderberg came on strong as the season concluded and finished the season with 12 goals and 51 points. That ties him with Zibanejad, who was also likely considered, but Soderberg’s size and defensive acumen likely earned him the edge over the Ottawa Senators youngster. Eventually, the Swedes are going to need to kill a penalty, and Kruger and Soderberg give Sweden two pivots who can man the penalty kill units.
As for Lehner, the options for starter-quality goaltenders not already selected to the roster were slim. He was injured for much of the past season and only picked up five wins in 21 starts, but he posted a .924 save percentage on a poor Buffalo team. Behind a Swedish defense, Lehner could be even better. That is, if he sees the net at all behind Henrik Lundqvist and Jacob Markstrom.
F Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
F Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
F Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
F Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks *
F Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
F Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks *
F Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche *
F Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
F Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
D Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators *
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
D Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres *
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks