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2020 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Sweden preview & roster

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Sweden searches for redemption after their latest disappointing result.

2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship final: Sweden vs Switzerland Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images

It seems that these articles always look for Sweden to do better, having missed out on shining hardware even if they have reached the medal round in most years. However, last year a team that lacked confidence but had plenty of injuries and illnesses to go around lost in the quarterfinal to a very good and organized Swiss team. It was a miscalculation and the question lingers: if Sweden crashes out early, will Tomas Montén be secure in his post as coach?

Mr. Montén has assembled a team that should do the job, as opposed to looking to individual stars for inspiration. It will be a classic Swedish team that will rely on teamwork that should fight for medals once more.

Once again, a strong goalkeeping trio and an amazing defence make the backbone of the Swedish team. The defence in particular is a veritable who’s who of young Swedish defenders and elite prospects that should have hockey lovers and scouts salivating. The only defender that comes with a question mark is Adam Ginning, and with a lineup as star-studded as this, it will be tough for Montreal Canadiens prospect Mattias Norlinder to get time on the ice as more or less every Swedish defender is only on the team because they received permission from their NHL club.

The offence is interesting as well, and Mr Montén has three draft-eligible prospects on the squad as well as a few undrafted players, but focus will be on Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz, and Linus Öberg, the shiny new player who has performed well in the SHL this fall, but has excelled while playing in the U20 team.

Team Sweden final roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
1 Jesper Eliasson G SHL/SuperElite Växjö Lakers (DET)
30 Hugo Alnefelt G SHL HV71 (TBL)
35 Erik Portillo G USHL Dubuque Fighting Saints (BUF)
4 Adam Ginning D SHL Linköping (PHI)
5 Philip Broberg D SHL Skellefteå (EDM)
6 Mattias Norlinder D HockeyAllsvenskan Modo (MTL)
7 Tobias Björnfot D AHL Ontario Reign (LAK)
8 Rasmus Sandin D AHL Toronto Marlies (TOR)
9 Victor Söderström D SHL Brynäs (ARI)
27 Nils Lundkvist D SHL Luleå (NYR)
10 Alexandrer Holtz F SHL Djurgården (2020 Draft)
11 Samuel Fagemo F SHL Frölunda (LAK)
15 Oscar Bäck F SHL Färjestad (DAL)
18 Lucas Raymond F SHL Frölunda (2020 Draft)
19 David Gustafsson F NHL Winnipeg Jets
20 Nikola Pasic F HockeyAllsvenskan Karlskoga (NJD)
21 Nils Höglander F SHL Rögle (VAN)
22 Karl Henriksson F HockeyAllsvenskan Södertälje (NYR)
23 Albin Eriksson F SuperElite Skellefteå U20 (DAL)
24 Hugo Gustafsson F HockeyAllsvenskan Södertälje (Undrafted)
25 Linus Öberg F SHL Örebro (2020 Draft)
26 Jonathan Berggren F SHL Skellefteå (DET)
29 Linus Nässen F HockeyAllsvenskan Timrå (Undrafted)

We get a rundown on some players from their club teams coaches Robert Ohlsson of Djurgården and Roger Rönnberg of Frölunda in this podcast:

The only player that hasn’t been released from his NHL team is Adam Boqvist, but even without him it will be Sweden’s defence that will make or break this team. Sweden will rely on its puck-moving defenders to create zone entries, control the puck, and supply offence. It is understandable that Mr. Montén has kept Ginning on the team; he will be providing the muscle and a mean streak to a defence that could use the bigger ice in Europe to skate circles around the opposition. That Ginning has played with Philip Broberg most of his international career will provide some added stability.

Nils Lundkvist has provided some great offence in SHL while still being solid defensively and will be a player to keep both eyes upon. One of the reasons Victor Söderström went back to the SHL was for the chance to play in the World Junior Championship, and after an initial disappointment of being left off the squad, he will look to prove his coach wrong.

Added to this lineup is the leader of the Swedish U18 team that won gold this spring, Tobias Björnfot. He will most likely get a leadership position even as one of the youngest players on the team. Montreal fans will look to the new addition Norlinder and his fantastic skating and hands to add to Sweden’s already strong defensive lineup, but the question will be where he fits.

Offensively its a tale of two different parts. The young core from the gold medal-winning U18 team — Holtz and Raymond — should provide some high-quality offence, especially with the addition of Öberg, Hållander, and Fagemo. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the NHL-experienced Gustafsson gets to centre the two upcoming draft picks. The rest of the Swedish forward lineup will be more about controlling the opposition and pushing for counter-attacks.

Strengths

A good defence creates a great offence, and with this defence Sweden’s offence should be one of a kind. It has been mentioned, but the fact that most of Sweden’s defenders are superb skaters and puck-handlers should lend well to the offence. Victor Söderström is stable defensively and Mattias Norlinder is better defensively than many think.

The goalkeepers are also strong and secure. While Portillo will most likely be the third goalie, the other two have SHL experience, and especially Alsnefelt has looked very good with his 0.920 save percentage in Sweden’s top league.

Weaknesses

The offence is something that will start as a weakness. There are maybe two lines that can produce and two others that will chip in when they can. However, a first line with Fagemo, Gustafsson, and Höglander can be devastating.

Raymond’s recent illness leaves a question mark over him, but what about the depth? A late injury to Montreal Canadiens prospect Jacob Olofsson has created a loss both offensively and defensively in the Swedish lineup.

Also, there has to be a lingering question about Coach Montén’s tactical acumen, having had the best teams on paper in some tournaments but still unable to come away with a gold medal. Added to this is last year’s exit when Sweden was outfoxed by another of Europe’s up-and-coming coaches, Christian Wohlwend, who now coaches Davos. Can Mr. Montén handle the pressure if things don’t go his way from the start? Can he outcoach his opponent to win a gold medal in the end?

X-Factor

All eyes will be on Holtz and Raymond who both have struggled with illnesses and injuries, so I will suggest the same player I did last year, as he was cut just before the start of the tournament: Nils Höglander. He is a player who can break a game open with his speed and cleverness. With another year of professional experience, he has only gotten better, and he will have goalies looking over their shoulders even when he is behind the net.

Prediction

Sweden makes the medal round, but then the difficult questions will be asked. The European rink size should benefit a Swedish team that will rely on speed and creating a temporary numerical advantage with skilled and offensively minded defenders. Added to this will be a traveling squad of fans that will create a home-ice advantage in many games. Still, I am reluctant to predict that Sweden will go any further than making the medal round.