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2016 World Cup of Hockey: Team Sweden preview

With a chip on their shoulder following the loss to Canada at the 2014 Olympics, Sweden has something to prove.

Ice Hockey Gold Medal - Sweden v Canada Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Sweden is looking for revenge, after what many players thought was a missed opportunity to win gold back at the Sochi Olympics.

The Swedish dressing room has had a quiet air of confidence around it. There has been a lot of talk about gelling as a team, and making sure that everyone accepts roles that might be different than what they normally have with their NHL teams. The goal is gold, and they will not be content with anything less.

Roster

Player Position League Current Team
Jhonas Enroth G NHL Toronto Maple Leafs
Jacob Markström G NHL Vancouver Cannucks
Henrik Lundqvist G NHL New York Rangers
Niklas Hjalmarsson D NHL Chicago Blackhawks
Anton Strålman D NHL Tampa Bay Lightning
Mattias Ekholm D NHL Nashville Predators
Oliver Ekman-Larsson D NHL Arizona Coyotes
Hampus Lindholm D NHL Anaheim Ducks
Erik Karlsson D NHL Ottawa Senators
Victor Hedman D NHL Tampa Bay Lightning
Filip Forsberg F NHL Nashville Predators
Mikael Backlund F NHL Calgary Flames
Marcus Krüger F NHL Chigaco Blackhawks
Patrik Berglund F NHL St. Louis Blues
Jakob Silfverberg F NHL Anaheim Ducks
Niklas Bäckström F NHL Washington Capitals
Loui Eriksson F NHL Vancouver Cannucks
Daniel Sedin F NHL Vancouver Cannucks
Henrik Sedin F NHL Vancouver Cannucks
Carl Söderberg F NHL Colorado Avalanche
Carl Hagelin F NHL Pittsburgh Penguins
Patric Hörnqvist F NHL Pittsburgh Penguins
Gabriel Landeskog F NHL Colorado Avalanche

Strengths

The thing that sticks out most with this roster is the amount of skilled defensemen. Assistant coach, and former Montreal Canadien, Peter Popovic said "This is the best ever blue line that has played for Sweden."

In some form of addition by subtraction, one could argue that the defensive corps actually improved when Niklas Kronwall bowed out of the tournament. The question right now seems to be if it is Mattias Ekholm or Hampus Lindholm that will be the sixth defender on the roster.

It seems likely that Victor Hedman will play with Anton Strålman, while Niklas Hjalmarsson will skate beside Oliver Ekman-Larsson. As such, the lone open spot is next to one of the best defenders in the world, Erik Karlsson.

While Karlsson has been spoken about in all media, it has been Oliver Ekman-Larsson that has played the most minutes in the exhibition games. The often overlooked Arizona Coyotes player will play a huge role for his country, right up there with the superstar Karlsson.

You also have to count Henrik Lundqvist as a strength, especially considering that defense in front of him. He should flourish and he looks incredible motivated and confident. Without needing to wear the C, he is the team’s leader, and he has always done well at international competitions.

Weaknesses

The offense is a big question mark, to be honest. A top line with the Sedins and Loui Eriksson is not something that will scare most teams. The line that will be leaned up on to pull some heavy duty is the trio of Filip Forsberg, Niklas Bäckström, and Patric Hörnqvist.

Can these two lines really produce enough offensive output to accomplish the goal of winning the tournament? Certainly a tall task, to say the least.

X-Factor

Erik Karlsson will be the dynamo that will get Sweden going. Coach Rikard Grönborg has decided that whatever defensive faults Karlsson has are far outweighed by his strengths, and will play his team that way. All eyes will be on Karlsson, and he will cherish the opportunity to play his game on such a stage.

In the last game against Finland, the power play unit with the Sedins and Loui Eriksson looked strong as well. With Karlsson on the point it also opens a door for Oliver Ekman-Larsson to have a go with his wrist shot rather than a big Karlsson howitzer.

In all, the powerplay with those two could be very key in compensating for the weaker forward group. It should be interesting to see if they can capitalize on their opportunities, and give Sweden a leg up on the competition.