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2016 World Hockey Championship: Team Sweden preview

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With a large contingent of SHL players, can team Sweden take home a medal from Russia?

Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Sweden usually brings a pretty solid lineup to the World Championships. However, this year it is a very different team that suits up for the first game in Russia. This is probably one of the most individually skilled team that has ever represented Sweden on the international level, but it does lack both size, and players that are prepared to do the dirty work.

It will be tough to coach a team like that, and I am not sure that head coach Pär Mårds is good at "in-game coaching." He has expressed frustration on the many "no thanks" he has received from NHL players in particular. The World Cup is the main target for Tre Kronor this summer, so that could explain why he had as many refusals as he did.

Sweden's history at the World Championships and Olympics over the last 15 years is amazing for such a small country. In 2006, they became the first team to win the World Championships and the Olympics in the same year. While they have definitely established themselves as a hockey power, I believe there is a good chance that they return home from Russia without a medal this spring.

Roster

Player Position League Current Team
Jacob Markstrom G NHL Vancouver Canucks
Viktor Fasth G KHL CSKA Moscow
Joel Lassinantti G SHL Luleå
Nicolas Burstrom D SHL Skellefteå
Adam Larsson D NHL New Jersey Devils
Johan Fransson D NLA Genève-Servette
Erik Gustaffson D NLA Kloten
Anton Lindholm D SHL Skellefteå
Erik Gustafsson D NHL Chicago Blackhawks
Oscar Fantenberg D SHL Frolunda
Magnus Nygren D SHL Farjestad




Gustav Nyquist F NHL Detroit Red Wings
Mattias Sjogren F KHL Bars Kazan
Mikael Backlund F NHL Calgary Flames
Jimmie Ericsson F SHL Skellefteå
Johan Sundstrom F SHL Frolunda
John Norman F SHL Skellefteå
Alexander Wennberg F NHL Columbus Blue Jackets
Linus Omark F KHL Salavat Yulaev
Linus Klassen F NLA Lugano
Robert Rosen F SHL Vaxjo Lakers
Patrik Cehlin F SHL Rogle
Mattias Ritola F SHL Skellefteå
Lucas Wallmark F NHL Carolina Hurricanes
Jimmie Ericsson F SHL Skellefteå

Skellefteå has quite a bit of representatives on this roster, which makes sense considering the club's success in the SHL. With six appearances in the finals, they won back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014 before losing in the finals last year, and this year to Artturi Lehkonen and Frolunda.

For the Montreal faithful, prospect Magnus Nygren did survive the last cut by Pär Mårds, and will probably be deployed on the power play. So fans of the Tricolore should get an opportunity to see his impressive slap shot in action when Sweden gets the man-advantage.

Strengths

The skill of the team is undoubted. They have skilled players in all positions, and they should be very creative in the offensive zone. Players like Omark, Wallmark, and Backlund should enjoy the big ice, and get a good cycle game going. If the pre-tournament games have been any indication, their scoring can come in bunches, and that is when they can really bury an opposing team.

Weaknesses

What stands out is the lack of big players that don't mind doing the dirty work. In a way it brings me back to football and the World Championships in 1982, when Brazil arguably lined up the 11 best players in the country (the 11th had to play goalkeeper), but who would play defence?

This team has a bit of that same flaw. It will put pressure on the coach to utilize the players correctly, and I am not sure that Pär Mårds is the right coach for that. I wonder how he will do when a game hinges on him utilising active coaching in different situations.

He really has to roll the dice, and it is anyone's guess what will come up. In Sweden, this has actually been touted as the worst World Championship roster the country has ever iced. Magnus Nygren said in an interview that it is up to the players to prove the doubters wrong.

X-Factor

One player not well known for the North American crowd is Lucas Wallmark, who managed to keep the same pace as Artturi Lehkonen in the SHL playoffs until his team was knocked out by Frölunda. Wallmark will play in the Carolina Hurricanes organization next season, and he will be an interesting player to follow.

Jimmie Ericsson needs to be mentioned here as well. He is the heart of the team, and has played for Skellefteå his entire career, aside from the 2015 season when he want to SKA St Petersburg and won the Gagarin Cup. As the team's undisputed leader, it is fitting that he will be their captain.

In my mind, simply making the quarterfinal will be a passing grade, something I don't think I have ever said about a Swedish team in the World Championships. Sweden really should be thankful to play in the 'easier' Moscow group, but could face some tough competition in the quarterfinal even if they finish second in the group and could really go out early.