Since their promotion following their gold-medal victory in 2002, Denmark has become a permanent fixture at the annual World Championship tournament. However, it has been five years since they appeared in a quarter-final game — a streak defenceman Oliver Lauridsen believes ought to end this year.
"We have been in the Top Division for so long now, so that's the absolute minimum: to stay up. I think that we should really make the quarter-finals" said Lauridsen, speaking to our own Patrik B. after Frölunda's SHL Championship victory. "We have a good chance to do that, and we have a better team than some of the other smaller nations. Quarter-finals should be a realistic target."
Looking at the roster, it is hard to disagree with his assessments. The Danish NHLers have turned out in force, and the talent gathering from the European leagues makes the team a good one. Plus, there is the added bonus of familiarity with one another.
"I am stoked to go to the national team," Lauridsen continued. "It's always something special, and so many of us have played together for so long, we are like a family. We want nothing but success for each other. We are all rooting for [Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik] Andersen right now, even if it probably would be better if we had him in the national team. We do get Lars Eller, and he will mean a lot, too."
|Simon Nielsen||G||Metal Ligaen||Herning Blue Fox|
|Sabastian Dahm||G||EBEL||Graz 99ers|
|George Sørensen||G||Metal Ligaen||Frederikshavn White Hawks|
|Mads Bødker||D||Metal Ligaen||SønderjyskE|
|Daniel Nielsen||D||Metal Ligaen||Herning Blue Fox|
|Stefan Lassen||D||SM-Liiga||Lahti Pelicans|
|Markus Lauridsen||D||HockeyAllsvenskan||AIK Stockholm|
|Oliver Lauridsen||D||SHL||Frölunda Indians|
|Emil Kristensen||D||SHL/SuperElit/Allsvenskan||Rögle BK/Rögle BK J20/IK Oskarshamn|
|Jesper B. Jensen||D||KHL||Jokerit|
|Nicholas B. Jensen||D||Metal Ligaen||Esbjerg Energy|
|Frederik Storm||F||SHL||Malmö Redhawks|
|Patrick Bjorkstrand||F||KHL||Medvescak Zagreb|
|Mads Christensen||F||DEL||EHC Munich|
|Morten Green||F||Metal Ligaen||Rungsted IK|
|Kirill Starkov||F||NLB||HC Red Ice|
|Niklas Jensen||F||AHL||Hartford Wolf Pack/Utica Comets|
|Mathias From*||F||SHL/SuperElit||Rögle BK/Rögle BK J20|
|Nikolaj Ehlers||F||NHL||Winnipeg Jets|
|Morten Madsen||F||DEL||Hamburg Freezers|
|Jannik Hansen||F||NHL||Vancouver Canucks|
|Morten Poulsen||F||EBEL||Gratz 99ers|
|Mikkel Aagaard||F||OHL||Sudbury Wolves/Niagara IceDogs|
|Mathias Bau Hansen||F||Metal Ligaen||Frederikshavn White Hawks|
|Lars Eller||F||NHL||Montreal Canadiens|
* On most recent World Juniors team. Names in boldface signify players on team in last year's worlds.
This team isn't the World Junior team of the past few years, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle on the strength of a white-hot goalie and a line of standout players. As Lauridsen said, they've been in the top tier for a long time, and if there's a time to move on, it's now.
Most of the team has played together at the international level recently, and there is a good mix of players, including young guns Sørensen, Ehlers and Aagaard (20), and Mathias From (18), and older players like Daniel Nielsen and Morton Green, who are 35. Oliver Lauridsen's comment about this team being familiar with each other is certainly well warranted. Green is appearing in his 18th World Championship, while Daniel Nielsen, Madsen and Bødker have 10 a piece.
In goal, Simon Nielsen replaces Patrick Galbraith from the preliminary roster. This year Nielsen played 20 regular season games, and 18 playoff games, collecting a 1.92 GAA and .916 SV% in the former, and a 1.94 GAA and .920 SV% in the latter. Sabastian Dahm returns to the international stage, coming off a 46-game season in Germany, where he put up 2.52 GAA with an excellent .931 SV%. Also joining the team is George Sørensen, the goalie from the country's World Juniors run two years ago, who won Canada's heart with a string of heroic performances as the team picked up their first ever WJC victory. Chances are he will not play as much as the other two, however.
The probable first line of Ehlers-Eller-Hansen is a good one, capable of holding their own against most teams, and will, in all likelihood, see very heavy minutes. Starkov, Jensen, Aagaard, Storm, Bjorkstrand, From (who was very impressive in the most recent WJC), and the others will be looked to for some vital goal-scoring.
While one of the deeper rosters Denmark has iced recently, none of their forwards could exactly be considered prolific goal-scorers. Jannik Hansen (22 NHL goals), Aagaard (24 in the OHL), Nicklas Jensen (19 in the AHL) and Bau Hansen (19 in the Danish Metal Ligaen) are the the only players to fall near or above the 20-goal mark.
Moreover, the forwards of traditional hockey powers like Russia and Sweden in Group A (or Canada and Finland in Group B) will probably give the Danish defence everything they can handle, and more.
Playing in Group A gives Denmark a much better shot at advancing further into the tournament, as they are likely to only be woefully outgunned by Russia and Sweden (Group B with Canada, Finland, the USA, and Slovakia would be a much more daunting gauntlet). The games against the Czech Republic and Switzerland should be hard fought, but it is not entirely outside the realm of possibility that a point or two could be stolen in those matches. Denmark's chances against Latvia, Norway, and Kazakhstan should be good, though expecting a walk in the park would be a mistake.
As per usual with Denmark, the goalies will have to be superb, and the team will have to capitalize mercilessly on any and all mistakes. Fortunately, they nearly always seem to rise to the occasion. Moreover, like the WJC team, underestimating Denmark would be unwise. If past tournaments are anything to go by, they will play a very team-oriented system, and if hard work and sheer tenacity were to get any team through the quarter-finals, that team would be Denmark.