The Swedish squad looks deep and dangerous for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Which youngsters who didn’t make it in Sochi will crack the team this time around?
We continue our virtual tour of 2016 World Cup of Hockey rosters with Team Sweden. The Swedes are a unique case in that, unlike the other European nations, they can assemble virtually their entire team from NHL players. Per quanthockey.com, Swedes comprise 8.1 percent of active NHLers. That’s more than double the representation of any country other than Canada and the U.S. Veteran power forward Jimmie Ericsson, a Swedish League vet now playing in the KHL, was the only non-NHLer on Sweden’s 2014 Olympic silver medallist squad in Sochi.
Carving out a 2016 lineup is especially difficult with the Swedes. They have tremendous depth and, with few true superstars, they have little separation between their 10th- and 15th-best guy at each position. Let’s get to it.
Likely won’t see the ice at all, but he’ll do as an experienced backup. Only Henrik Lundqvist and Jonas Gustavsson have more experience than Enroth among active NHL goalies.
No player has a stronger grip on any position for any nation in the 2016 World Cup, assuming ‘King Henrik’ wants to suit up, of course. Massive gap in talent and experience between him and whoever backs him up.
The 6-foot-6 Islanders prospect has excelled with Ak-Bars Kazan in the KHL, posting a 1.82 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. He also started for Sweden at the 2014 World Championship and looked good. He makes sense as the World Cup No. 2.
On the bubble: Viktor Fasth, Jonas Gustavsson, Eddie Lack, Robin Lehner, Jacob Markstrom, Niklas Svedberg
The stud Coyotes blueliner can absolutely do it all. He’ll log important minutes in Sweden’s top four. That he’s not a lock for the top pair tells you how good this defense corps will be.
Why is Hedman underrated? And how on Earth did he miss out on the Sochi squad? He’s every bit the monster he was supposed to be when Tampa drafted him second overall in 2009. He fell under the radar because big D-men tend to develop offense slower and because some guy name John Tavares went first that year. The Swedish brass won’t repeat their mistake in 2016. Hedman will be a crucial cog.
Stick tap to Swedish journalist and THN friend Uffe Bodin, editor in chief of hockeysverige.se. He sold me on Hjalmarsson over Alexander Edler, because Hjalmarsson’s a favorite of national team coach Par Marts. Hjalmarsson brings a willingness to get his nose dirty. He’s one of the sport’s best shot blockers and a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
The best offensive defenseman of this generation will quarterback not just the power play but also Sweden’s even strength attack. He’s the focal point of any attack he plays in.
Jonas Brodin just missed my cut because he’s a left shot, and the rookie Klingberg just beat out the resurgent Adam Larsson. Klingberg’s offense can no longer be ignored. He’s a nice fit for one of Sweden’s power play units.
He still hits like a ton of bricks, and he brings veteran readership to a fairly young stable of rearguards.
He seems to improve with every game in Anaheim. He’s long, lean and poised, and he just turned 21. Lindholm’s just getting started.
Score one for the advanced stats geeks. Stralman was a hidden gem with the New York Rangers, quietly making an extremely positive impact on possession. Tampa Bay paid him the money he deserved, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s a perfect depth piece for Team Sweden.
On the bubble: Jonas Brodin, Alexander Edler, Toby Enstrom, Carl Gunnarsson, Adam Larsson, Johnny Oduya, David Rundblad
Backlund slots into the role Marcus Kruger filled for Sweden in Sochi, as Backlund can match Kruger’s defensive game but with more skill at the offensive end of the rink. He’s become an extremely underrated player.
Let’s hope he’s antihistamine-free and plays every game in 2016. Backstrom, an oustanding playmaker squarely in his prime, should center Sweden’s top line.
Eriksson the Boston Bruin hasn’t sniffed Eriksson the Dallas Star’s production, but he’s still a skilled offensive forward who can excel if he finds the right chemistry. How about slotting him on the Sedins’ line? He already played with Daniel (and Backstrom) in Sochi.
Players like Forsberg are precisely the reason Sweden will challenge for the World Cup title. Not only are the Swedes good, but their youngsters are also developing nicely. Forsberg will be one of their best, shiftiest offensive weapons.
He’s a consummate professional who fits on a scoring line and plays a steady two-way game. Sounds like, well, every Swede ever. He just makes too much sense.
He and the Colorado Avalanche have disappointed this year. But Landeskog remains a unique breed of player, a mature leader at a young age who can score and dish out hits on the forecheck. This team wouldn’t be the same without him.
It will be fun to see how much further Lindholm’s game has developed by summer 2016. He’s growing accustomed to NHL physicality, and his production has increased as a sophomore in Carolina.
He’s just the latest Detroit discovery, and he’ll be one of Sweden’s premier snipers. He’d fit nicely on Backstrom’s right wing.
Daniel’s goal scoring has nosedived ever since his concussion late in the 2011-12 season. He still has a role on this team as a veteran leader and somewhat of a mascot along with brother Henrik.
Henrik’s game hasn’t changed the way Daniel’s has. Henrik is in decline, but more because of age than anything. He remains a steady playmaker.
Silfverberg edges Marcus Johansson for the last spot on this forward corps. The Swedes are strong enough at center and on the left wing. Silfverberg brings something different with his right-handed shot. Uffe won me over on this pick, too.
Nice to see Steen proving last year’s scoring breakout was no fluke. Health isn’t always on his side, but he’s become quite the goal scorer and two-way presence.
Sweden’s 2014 Olympic captain only got one game in before an injury knocked him out of the tournament. A healthy Zetterberg should wear the ‘C’ again and will play in the top six. He’s comfortable and effective at center or on the left wing.
It took a bit longer than expected, but Zibanejad has started blossoming in Ottawa. The 2011 first-rounder has emerged as the Sens’ No. 1 center. He has nice size to go with his speed, and he’ll be that much better a year from now.
On the bubble: Patrik Berglund, Andre Burakovsky, Jimmie Ericsson, Carl Hagelin, Johan Franzen, Marcus Johansson, Melker Karlsson, Marcus Kruger, William Nylander, Carl Soderberg (previously “disqualified” from consideration by Marts), Alexander Wennberg
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Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin