It feels great to be back writing about hockey again. The NHL has announced that training caps for the conclusion of the 2019-20 season will start on July 10th, so I wanted to finish the series of Olympic rosters this week, as NHL content is sure to be flowing in no time. It has been a while, so a refresher on what our goal is here: We are projecting the rosters of the next Olympic teams for the big-six countries. The next Winter Olympics is expected to be in 2022, so we are projecting two years out. We will keep in mind player ages when selecting the teams.
Today we turn our sights on Sweden. Like many teams, Sweden will have a changing of the guard this time around. Old stalwarts like the Sedins, Henrik Zetterberg, and even Henrik Lundqvist are either retired or will be retiring. Instead this team will be anchored by solid depth up front, and an absolute juggernaut of a blue line. The Swedes are also like the Canadians in the fact that many of their best forwards are responsible two way players, so in a system this team should perform quite well.
We are going to look at each team the same way. First looking at locks and then moving on to bubble players. For the sake of this roster we are only looking at NHL players, although Sweden is one of a couple countries that produces NHL quality talent in its own domestic league.
Not only he is a lock, but he will be the most important player on the team. All the contenders in this tournament have unbelievable top end talent up front. Pettersson will have to battle with and beat some of the best players in the game. It is a tough ask, but one the Swedes will need him to answer. Either way, he will probably be the face of Swedish hockey for the next decade plus.
Sure, he played alongside Artemi Panarin this season for the Rangers, but Zibanejad had a whopping 75 points in 57 games. That is ridiculous production for a guy who will get to play with some high end skill on this team too.
One of the players I mentioned who is responsible defensively but can still score. Landeskog will be huge for this team to hang physically with the North American teams. He could play on the wing or down the middle and be effective at both places. He is also a strong candidate to be the captain of this club.
Willy has his share of critics out there, but put together a very strong 2019-20 campaign before the shutdown potting 31 goals in only 68 games. If this team is light on one thing, it is big time skill on the wing. That puts importance on Nylander, as one off the most established snipers from the country.
Defensively responsible and can kill penalties, Lindholm led the Flames with 29 goals this season. Aside from his defence, the Swedes will need him to score, as again he is one of the few proven wingers on the team.
The last of the big three wingers, Forsberg is a dynamic talent who will be a part of the top two lines. He had a bit of a down year this past season, but is a consistent 25-30 goal scorer in his young twenties. Again he will need to contribute for this team to have success.
Most Likely Will Make It
Two years removed from a 43 goal season, Karlsson hasn’t put up the same numbers since his breakout campaign. Still, he can really fly and gives the team some real speed and skill, something they will need. Assuming his numbers bounce back a little bit next year, he should have a spot somewhere in the top 12.
This one is all about age. It is hard to predict how good Backstrom will be two years from now, but if he can hang on he has a very good shot to make the team. He was only slightly below a point per game this year, so the guy can still play. He will be 34 when the tournament starts.
Regarded as one of the better two way centres in the world, Backlund will have a purely defensive role on this team. That could come in handy if he can form part of a shutdown checking line that can play against some of the mega lines in this tournament.
He has only played one year in the show, but had an impressive rookie campaign in Buffalo with 20 goals. He has two more years to develop, and has a useful skillet. Olofsson can really shoot the puck. On a team with some pass first superstars like Backstrom, having a sniper will really help.
Burakovsky is Austrian born but plays for Team Sweden. Very much like Olofsson, he has room to develop and improve, but will need to play a role on this team. 20 Goals this season was a good start.
Rakell is probably a depth player on this team, but had back to back 30 goal seasons not too long ago. He is another guy the Swedes will need to over achieve.
Bratt is young and will need to develop more, but 16 goals isn’t bad, and there just isn’t much depth on the wing with this team.
Jarnkrok is a solid but unspectacular player for the bottom of the roster. He can score a bit, with 10 or more goals in each of the last five seasons, but he will be a fourth liner on this team.
This blueline is just awesome. Not only are they awesome, but they will be so fun to watch and they will be built for Olympic hockey. Skilled, mobile, and super active. Erik Karlsson was arguably the best player on the ice in the last Olympics, and despite some recent average play in the NHL, can still be a game breaker on the big stage.
Victor Hedman – Erik Karlsson
Probably the best pairing in the tournament, these guys are both perennial Norris trophy candidates. So much skating, so much skill. Man, we need Olympic hockey back.
Another mega-watt pairing. Both these guys are also incredibly skilled and can jump into the play with the best of them. Ekman-Larsson is a first pairing guy on most teams. This is not most teams.
Speaking of speed and skill. Dahlin is in Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes territory for guys who will be on the third pairing but can also take over a game. In two years time, Dahlin might be the best player on this team.
Not a bad seventh d-man by any means. Klefbom could fill in anywhere on the blue line.
This team has only one real weakness and it is between the pipes. Lundqvist held this net for a decade plus, and changing the guard is never easy.
The current Canucks keeper seems to be the favourite. He can get hot, so if he was a tournament to remember Sweden will be a contender. But that is a big if.
Lehner is a great story, and Ullmark has lasted in the league, but both would be outmatched on this stage. Finding the next great Swedish goalie will be a challenge for whoever puts this team together.
Agree with my Picks? Think I missed a few? Let me know what you think @jdonville13 on twitter!
Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA Today Sports