Tuesday, 16 January 2018

How Swede It Is

Just as I stated yesterday, nations are beginning to get themselves set for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, and Sweden followed the Czech Republic's lead in naming their men's Olympic hockey team today. With a vast number of talented players currently under NHL contracts, there would be no Zetterbergs, Sedins, Hedmans, or Karlssons going to South Korea. There will be, however, a Lundqvist that goes to South Korea, but it will be his first Olympiad despite being a long-time national player. Who will wear the Tre Kronor? Let's take a look.

Sweden's men's Olympic team will be assembled from the following players.
Just like the Czech sqaud, there are some notable names from their times in the NHL. Linus Omark, Anton Lander, Viktor Stalberg, Joakim Lindstrom, Staffan Kronwall, Erik Gustafsson, Jhonas Enroth, and Viktor Fasth should all be fairly recognizable names after spending time with NHL clubs. Having two former NHL netminders will certainly play into Sweden's favour, and both men are having solid seasons with their KHL clubs statistically.

The second wave of players will need to provide some extra scoring punch, and I think they'll be alright. Carl Klingberg played in the Winnipeg Jets' system for a while, Oscar Moller was in the Kings' system for a few seasons, Dennis Everberg served under the Avalanche's watch for a couple of seasons, and Jonas Ahnelov played for Arizona's affiliate in the AHL. They weren't flashy or prolific scorers at those levels, but Klingberg and Moller showed a knack for the net at times. They could be important scorers down the stretch for Sweden at this tournament.

Let's take nothing away from Joel Lundqvist either. The twin brother of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Joel will be the graybeard for the Swedes at age 35, but he brings a ton of international hockey experience, spent three seasons with the Dallas Stars, and has been a solid producer for Frolunda since returning to Sweden. He will captain this Swedish squad, and he's looking for his first Olympic medal to place alongside his three gold medals and two bronze medals from the IIHF World Championships and the bronze medal he earned at the 2000 IIHF World Junior Championship. If there's one guy who will be motivated to win, I'd suspect that Joel Lundqvist would be that player.

The Swedes have solid goaltending and good scoring, but they'll need a solid tournament out of their defensive unit. Kronwall and Gustafsson are your NHL-experienced rearguards and Rasmus Dahlin will be allowed to showcase his offensive flair, but there's not a lot of offence coming from the other five defenders.

And that leads me to ask why Sweden would only select twelve forwards and eight defencemen? That's an odd number of defencemen to take unless they plan on using a defender up front in case of an injury to a forward. It makes no sense to take an extra defenceman unless you're anticipating an injury or two, so does that mean we'll see an aggressive Swedish defence? Lots of blocked shots? I guess we'll find out.

Sweden looks like a team that is built to medal. They have solid scoring up front, they should get good goaltending throughout the tournament, and they'll most likely play a very fundamental defensive game. Just as they are in most tournaments, they should be a favorite for the gold medal, and I suspect they'll own one of the podium spots at the end of the 2018 Winter Olympic tournament!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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