Team Sweden will look to a make a run at World Cup glory, and head coach Rikard Grönborg will have the task to select the best talent available for “Tre Kronor.”
Sweden’s last tournament win came in the 2013 World Championship when Sweden and Finland that co-hosted the tournament. The team fell short in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, losing to Canada in the final. This will be a chance for revenge for several players, and could possibly be one of the last times we see Henrik Lundqvist, Henrik Zetterberg and the Sedin twins wear the yellow and blue, depending on if NHL players will participate in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.
The Swedes doesn’t have the equivalent of a Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or Connor McDavid, but Grönborg should still be able to find a group of forwards that can make it an interesting tournament.
Although they only have to announce 16 players on March 2, I’ve gone and taken out the full squad (3 goalies, 7 defensemen, 13 forwards) that I believe will represent Sweden in Toronto. After predicting the defensemen and goalies, it’s now time for the forwards.
Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings):
The man with the best beard in the NHL will be one of the first names on Grönborg’s team sheet. Zetterberg will most likely be the captain, just like he was during the Sochi Olympics, when he unfortunately had to withdraw from the squad after suffering from back problems.
“Zäta” is getting up there in age, but he’s still a leading player for the Detroit Red Wings. Zetterberg leads the team in scoring and has a wealth of experience and leadership qualities that could give Sweden an edge.
Nicklas Bäckström (Washington Capitals):
Bäckström makes up one part of the most lethal duos in the NHL, as he puts fear into the opposing teams together with Alex Ovechkin. Bäckström has long been one of the most underrated stars in the league, which seems to suit the soft-spoken Gävle native just fine. Ovechkin draws the headlines in Washington DC while “Bäckis” concentrates on putting up points.
He’s ninth in the league in assists with 39, and has a total of 56 points in 57 games. Bäckström would most likely get paired with Alexander Steen and Gustav Nyquist, and that line would have a bit of everything.
Henrik Sedin (Vancouver Canucks):
The Sedin twins are not at the level they once were, but they are still carrying Vancouver on their ginger shoulders. Henrik is having a slightly less productive season than Daniel, but at age 35 you would assume that the production would start to drop. Especially when you take into account that Vancouver is on the decline.
This will most likely be the last time we see the Sedin twins play for Tre Kronor in a major tournament (I don’t count the World Championship as it’s played every year during the NHL playoffs).
Marcus Krüger (Chicago Blackhawks):
Krüger is an unsung hero in Chicago, and has developed into one of the best defensive centers in the league. He’s absolute beast on the penalty kill, and good in the faceoff circle. Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville likes him because does an excellent job at shutting down other teams’ top players.
He’s no point machine by any stretch of the imagination, but he won’t be with Team Sweden to score, he will be there to take care of business in the defensive end and kill penalties. At age 25, he’s already won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, so he knows what it takes to go all the way.Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks):
Daniel is having a more productive season than Henrik and leads the Canucks on 52 points (22G, 30A). This is the 10th time that Daniel has scored 20 or more goals in a season during his NHL career. He has that twin telepathy connection with Henrik, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the twins are joined by Loui Eriksson to make up one of the lines for Sweden.
Filip Forsberg (Nashville Predators):
Forsberg has been on fire as of late and just scored his second natural hat trick in three games. The 21-year-old winger had a fabulous last season, his first full season in the NHL, and ended up scoring 26 goal and adding 37 assists for 63 points in 82 games.
With his recent goalscoring surge, he’s now sitting at 26 goals and 20 assists, he should be able to crack the 30-goal barrier. He’s the most prolific Swedish goalscorer in the league, ahead of Loui Eriksson (23G) and Daniel Sedin (21G).
Alexander Steen (St. Louis Blues):
Steen suffered an injury recently in a game against the Arizona Coyotes, but before that he had another solid season for the St. Louis Blues. The Canadian-born Steen is sixth in scoring among the Swedish skaters with 17 goals and 30 assists for 47 points in 61 games.
Steen is a hard worker that also has a lot of skill in the offensive end. He might never get back to the level he held during the 2013-14 when he scored 33 goals, but he’s a very solid player that works hard in every zone.
Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche):
Landeskog has been a really good player since coming into the league and winning the Calder Trophy in 2011-12. He’s scored 20 or more goals in three of his four NHL seasons (he scored 8 goals during the lockout season) and currently sitting on 15 goals in 59 games.
The 23-year-old winger is a born leader and it wasn’t that big of a surprise when he was named the youngest captain in league history. His two-way game is great and he never stops battling. He was part of the World Championship winning side in 2013 and the Olympic silver squad in Sochi two years ago.
Loui Eriksson (Boston Bruins):
Eriksson has had a bounce back season so far this year, and is putting his best foot forward as he’s a pending UFA. With 23 goals and 48 points total, he’s tied for second in both goalscoring and points on the Boston Bruins. Eriksson is still having talks with the Bruins about an extension, but if that falls through he might end up getting traded before the deadline on Monday.
Eriksson is a great two-way winger that has a lot of offensive upside in his game. Can play in a lot of different situations and excel.Gustav Nyquist (Detroit Red Wings):
Nyquist got his big breakthrough during the 2013-14 when he scored 28 goals in 57 games. He followed that up with 27 goals last season. So far this season, Nyquist has struggled a bit to find the back of the net. He has 14 goals in 61 games, which makes the 25 goal plateau a bit of a reach unless he goes on a hot streak.
But he has shown that he can get into these incredible scoring runs and that will surely have some weight to it when Grönborg names his squad.
Patric Hörnqvist (Pittsburgh Penguins):
Hörnqvist is a guy who does a lot of work in the background. He’s been fortunate to be playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and ended up scoring 25 goals last season, which was his first in Pittsburgh. This season, he sits at 12 goals after 59 games.
Hörnqvist is a big body and a good player to park in front of the opposing goaltender on the power play. He will just have to be sure to have his blade on the ice and be ready when the passes comes to him, much like in Pittsburgh.
Carl Söderberg (Colorado Avalanche):
Söderberg has had a good season with the Avalanche since joining the team in the summer when he was traded for a sixth round pick. He’s been given a bigger role than what he had in Boston with the Bruins, and has responded well. Söderberg is the ultimate late bloomer; he didn’t make his NHL debut until he was 27 years old.
Colorado has put a lot of trust in the 30-year-old Malmö native, and has played him in the second power play unit, which has result in 13 power play points. Söderberg sits third in scoring for Colorado with 42 points (11G, 31A) in 63 games, just six points shy of his career high that he set during his first full season with Boston back in 2013-14.
Marcus Johansson (Washington Capitals):
Johansson versatility is something that could tip the scale in his favor. He could be used anywhere in the lineup, and has a lot of good qualities. He’s good in the faceoff circle if he’s being used as a center, but he’s just as good playing on the wing.
He and Söderberg will have stiff competition for a roster spot from players like Victor Rask, Rickard Rakell, Elias Lindholm etc.
The forward lineup might not have the same starpower as Canada and the United States, but this would be a deep and balanced bunch of forwards. And with all the offensive skill on the blue line, Sweden might not need Forsberg or Nyquist going on a hot streak, although it would certainly help. Sweden should be considered one of the favorites and the fans will be expecting them to at least make it to the final.