With the official news that NHLers will be returning to compete in the Olympics once again for the first time since the 2014 Sochi games, the rapid speculation on who will represent each team has begun. The growth of ice hockey around the world has grown immensely and there’s no shortage of talent, especially in traditional European hockey markets.
Each country will have some very tough decisions to make, some more than others, when it comes time to submit their final 25 man rosters in January 2022. We will take a look at what each of the main contenders teams should look like come game one of the tournament. We’ll be projecting thirteen forwards, seven defenceman and three goalies for each major team in the tournament. Today we’ll be look at Sweden.
A reminder that these teams are not necessarily who we think will be named to the actual team, but who we would pick for the team.
As usual Team Sweden will be one of the favourites in the tournament. The 2006 gold medal winners and 2014 runners up will once again be bringing one of the more skilled teams to the Olympics, however their overall depth is a step behind USA and Canada.
During the 2018 Winter Olympics, Team Sweden had a mix of skaters playing in the SHL, KHL, and a few other European leagues, as well as then 17-year-old Rasmus Dahlin, who was selected first overall in the 2018 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres just a few months after his Olympics performance. This time around, the return of the NHL in the Olympics means that Team Sweden will likely consist entirely of NHL talent. Let’s sweet how it might look.
Gabriel Landeskog (A) – Elias Pettersson – Elias Lindholm
Filip Forsberg – Mika Zibanejad – William Nylander
Andre Burakovsky – Nicklas Backstrom (A) – Viktor Arvidsson
William Karlsson – Joel Eriksson Ek – Jesper Bratt
Sweden doesn’t have the same depth in their talent pool that the Canadians and Americans do, so picking their forward group is pretty straight forward.
The top line was simple. Gabriel Landeskog is the best left wing available and Elias Pettersson, despite his injury struggles last season, is clearly the best centre available and will be tasked with leading the way offensively for Sweden. Elias Lindholm can be shifted to the right side on the top line due to Sweden’s strength down the middle. He should have no problem adjusting back to the wing. All three players are decent defensively so this should be an elite two-way line.
Similar to the first line, the second line is pretty clear. After Landeskog, Filip Forsberg is the clear next choice at left wing. He’s a shot producing machine and along with an elite finisher in Mika Zibanejad, the two can pepper opposing goalies with shots. On the right side William Nylander’s playmaking ability will fit perfectly with Zibanejad’s goal scoring.
For the third line Nicklas Backstrom’s one of the most experienced players on the roster and his strong defence will fit well in the bottom-six. Andrew Burakovsky meanwhile has flown under the radar in Colorado but has developed into a borderline elite finisher—a perfect fit alongside Backstrom’s playmaking ability. Viktor Arvidsson may have fallen off the last two seasons, but he was once a top end goal scorer and I think he bounces back with the Los Angeles Kings this season.
For the fourth line I went with a more defensive approach. Joel Eriksson Ek has quietly developed into one of the best defensive centres in the league. On the right side Jesper Bratt is criminally underrated and brings a solid two-way game to the bottom six. William Karlsson meanwhile can be shifted to the wing and provide some more offence to the line while not comprising defence.
For the extra forward I went with Mikael Backlund. He’s got a ton of experience playing for Sweden and although he’s not the same player he once was, he’s still a very dependable bottom-six and penalty kill option and could easily slide in on the fourth line.
Victor Hedman (C) – Mattias Ekholm
Jonas Brodin – John Klingberg
Hampus Lindholm – Adam Larsson
The backbone of Sweden’s team will almost certainly be their defence group, boasting one of the strongest from top to bottom in the tournament.
On the top pair, Victor Hedman will lead the way. He had his struggles last season battling an injury, but he should be back to full health this season and back to his Norris level form from 2019–20. Sweden is stacked on the left side so the underrated Mattias Ekholm can shift to the right to play on the top pair.
On the second pair I’ve got one of the most underrated defensive defenceman in the league in Jonas Brodin paired with the offensively gifted John Klingberg. I was torn on Klingberg. His overall play has seen a decline the past couple years, but he’s still got a lot of talent offensively. Alongside the defensively responsible Brodin his defensive deficiencies will be masked and he can focus on offense. He’ll also be a top option on the power play.
For the bottom pair I went with another defensive specialist in Adam Larsson alongside the very solid two-way Hampus Lindholm. Larsson has finally become the top-end defensive defenceman everyone hoped he would just in time for the Oilers to let him go. Meanwhile Lindholm doesn’t get enough attention playing in Anaheim but is quietly one of the better two-way defencemen in the NHL.
I know most people will be shocked that Erik Karlsson is only listed as an extra, but the fact is he’s fallen off quite a bit the last couple years. Similar to Seth Jones and Team USA, I fully expect him to get a major role on the real team, but given the other options I don’t think he warrants the selection right now.
In net it was super easy to pick the three goalies to represent Sweden. Jacob Markstrom and Robin Lehner are the clear top options, it’s just a matter of who starts. Whoever has the better start to the 2021–22 season will most likely earn the starting role, so for now I’ll pencil in Markstrom who has more international experience.
As the third option Linus Ullmark has essentially no competition. He’s a solid option though and is in line to gain some mainstream attention as the starter in Boston this year.
On the bubble
Patric Hornqvist – Hornqvist has seen his overall play decline the past couple seasons as he gets into his mid 30s but his point totals and power play production can’t be denied. If the Swedes are looking to bring some extra experience to the tournament, Hornqvist will certainly be on the roster.
Nils Hoglander – A more under the radar choice right now, but with a big sophomore season in Vancouver, Hoglander could climb his way onto the roster as its youngest player. He’s got a ton of skill and could be a nice fit if the team is looking for more offence. His start to the year is definitely worth tracking going into January.
Rasmus Dahlin – Dahlin is one of the most purely gifted defenceman in the league offensively, but at just 21 years old and stuck in Buffalo he hasn’t had his breakout yet. Add that to the stacked left side for Sweden and he’s in tough to earn a spot over the veteran options available. He’s had Olympic experience already, but he isn’t a shoo in to make the roster when the best Swedes are available. Maybe by the next Olympics it’ll be an easier decision, just not yet for 2022.
Marcus Pettersson – A hugely underrated name out of Pittsburgh, Pettersson has a very solid two-way game. As mentioned the Swedes are stacked on the left side of defence so he probably won’t make the team, but he could be a solid consideration as the extra defenceman.
A medal contender
As mentioned previously, the Swedes will take one of the most talented rosters to the tournament come 2022, but it’s clear they don’t possess the depth that the Americans and Canadians do. They’ll be in tough matchup-wise with their bottom-six forward group against the two best teams in the tournament, but they should have no problem getting past most of the other teams.
That said in Olympic tournaments anything can happen, and Sweden certainly has the goaltending and defence to pull off an upset on either of the North American teams. They’ll have to rely on their stacked defence group to carry them through, and there’s no reason they can’t surprise and medal once again.
Next up we’ll be looking at their European rivals, Finland.