One of the big five powerhouse countries in international hockey, Sweden always seems to posses a team that can compete for a medal.
I mean there’s always good reasoning behind their yearly expectations, just look at their track record. Sweden has entered the medal round 28 times. They have won a total of six Bronze Medals and 11 Silver Medals, which is most by any country in the history of the WJC (unless you include the Soviet Union in Team Russia’s totals). Despite the outstanding talent they bring in, Sweden has only won two Gold Medals. One in 1981, the other in the 2012 thriller over Russia. The Juniorkronorna (Junior Crowns) are 176-92-8, with 11 ties. This year’s team is just another example of Sweden’s consistent ability to produce phenomenal young talent.
Finishing the Job
For Sweden, it is never an issue of of they can make it to the semi-finals, it is if they can make it to the final, and win the gold. They have advanced to the semis in every tournament since 2007. Six of those games saw the Swedes lose, and play for the bronze. In the six Gold Medal Games they played in, they are 1-5, including the heartbreaking 2014 loss in Malmo to Finland, where Rasmus Ristolainen played hero for the Finns. Three of the silver medals were handed to Sweden by Canada. Back-to-back losses in 2008 and 2009, where 2008 was another overtime loss for Sweden. The Swedes need to find a way to win that final game, as they have struggled to do so in recent memory. They certainly have the team to get them there, but will this group be able to get the job done?
Who to Watch For
While Samuel Ersson is another capable goaltender, expect Ahman to get the go-call in game one of the tournament. Ahman has been a very steady goaltender in his past couple of seasons in Sweden. So far this season, Ahman is arguably the best goaltender in HockeyAllsvenskan. He’s 10-4 this season, with three shutouts, and a 1.75 GAA, that leads the league. Ahman’s .933 SV% is second best in the league, right behind Vasteras’ Ersson. Ahman played a few games with HV71 in the SHL. In three games he had a respectable 2.27 GAA and .913 SV%. Ahman’s a very patient goaltender, with good clean movements that keep him in good position throughout the play. He may not be the biggest “can’t-miss” prospect in net like Sweden has had in year’s past, however he may be all the Swedes need in this tournament.
If there is a game-changer on the back end of Sweden, it would have to Boqvist. The Chicago first-round draft pack has really shown in the OHL that it will not be long before he is NHL-ready. After coming over to the London Knights from Brynas IF, Boqvist has really been impressive in his first year in the ‘O’. He has scored nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points in 23 games with the Knights, which is tenth in league scoring among defenseman. Boqvist is very sound in his own end, and makes smart decisions without the puck. With the puck, he can be a creative threat. He is a very good puck handler with good speed to rush the puck when he finds space.
Do not let his size fool you, Brannstrom can be a real big player for this Swedish team. Currently playing with Vegas’ AHL farm team in Chicago, Brannstrom has made a solid transition to the North American game. In his last season in Sweden with HV71, Brannstrom put up 15 points in 44 games. Which is impressive considering defensemen scoring is hard to come by in the SHL. He done well in the first part of his season in the AHL, as he’s put up 20 points in 24 games with the Wolves. This will also be Brannstrom’s second time around at the WJC, as he was on last year’s silver medal team. Brannstrom has outstanding vision in the offensive zone. Really oversees the play develop and makes the right decision to create a quality scoring chance.
One of the young up-and-comers in the SHL is Pittsburgh’s second-round pick from this past summer’s draft. Last year, while his team Timra was in HockeyAllsvenskan, Hallander stepped up with nine goals and 11 assists in 40 games, helping Timra’s promotion into the SHL. This season, he continues to play at the same pace he did last season, with 12 points 23 games so far. Hallander has a natural scoring touch, with a nose for the net. He finds the open areas, and does not miss when he gets a scoring chance.
A relative unknown by those outside the OHL, Leufvenius has been a real quiet scorer with the Sarnia Sting. He came to Sarnia after leaving Linkoping HC following the 2016-2017 season. Last year, he had a decent year with 47 points in 68 games. This year, however, Leufvenius has really started out strong. In his 34 games with Sarnia before joining Team Sweden, he’s totaled 21 goals and 21 assists, and is well on his way to topping last year’s numbers after the tournament. His size makes him an imposing presence in the slot, and has a good firm shot to bury the puck from further out.
The lone Swede on the roster with NHL experience, Lundestrom has World Juniors experience as well, as he was on last year’s silver medal team where he scored a pair of goals in the tournament. Before the 2018 draft, Lundestrom scored 15 points with Lulea HF of the SHL. He decided to stay in North America after Anaheim drafted him 23rd overall. He performed well enough in training camp to earn a spot on the opening night roster. After a few uneventful games, Lundestrom was sent down to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls, and Lundestrom is hoping that a good tournament will help reinvigorate him, and help him move back up to Ducks’ main roster. Lundestrom is another silky skater who can move the puck into areas that will create scoring chances. He has quick hands that create opportunities around the net, and will be a key player on Sweden’s power play.
Olle Eriksson Ek (BIK Karlskoga, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Samuel Ersson (Vasteras IK, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Adam Ahman (IK Oskarshamn, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Adam Boqvist (London Knights, OHL)
Philip Broberg (AIK, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Erik Brannstrom (Chicago Wolves, AHL)
Adam Ginning (Linkoping HC, SHL)
Timothy Liljegren (Toronto Marlies, AHL) QUESTIONABLE (High ankle sprain)
Nils Lundkvist (Lulea HF, SHL)
Jacob Ragnarsson (Almtuna IS, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Rasmus Sandin (Toronto Marlies, AHL)
Filip Westerlund (Frolunda HC, SHL)
Emil Bemstrom (Djurgardens IF, SHL)
Oskar Back (BIK Karlskoga, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Lucas Elvenes (Rogle BK, SHL)
Samuel Fagemo (Frolunda HC, SHL)
David Gustafsson (HV71, SHL)
Pontus Holmberg (Vaxjo Lakers HC, SHL)
Rickard Hugg (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)
Filip Hallander (Timra IK, SHL)
Nils Hoglander (Rogle BK, SHL)
Hugo Leufvenius (Sarnia Sting, OHL)
Isac Lundestrom (Anaheim Ducks, NHL)
Jacob Olofsson (Timra IK, SHL)
Filip Sveningsson (IK Oskarshamn, Allsvenskan (Sweden))
Johan Sodergran (Linkoping HC, SHL)
Fabian Zetterlund (Farjestad BK, SHL)
Dec. 26 vs. Finland (10:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT)
Dec. 27 vs. Slovakia (6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT)
Dec. 29 vs USA (10:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT)
Dec. 31 vs. Kazakhstan (6:30 pm ET/3:30 pm PT)
Statistics from eliteprospects.com
Records from iihf.com
featured image photo credit – Pixabay.com