BY: Fred Poulin (@FredPoulin98)
We are now less than one year away from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Now that the NHL has finally allowed its players to compete in the Men’s hockey tournament, it’s time to have a in-depth look at the potential candidates to make Team Sweden’s roster.
The core of this team is getting older every year and 2014 might be the last chance at a Gold Medal for this unheralded country. With key veterans such as Nicklas Lidstrom and Mats Sundin who retired in recent years, Team Sweden will have to rely on younger players such as Gabriel Landeskog and Oliver Ekman-Larsson to take over.
Expect the Sedins, Henrik and Daniel, to lead the way once again on offense along with clutch performer Henrik Zetterberg and puck distributor Nicklas Backstrom. Veteran Daniel Alfredsson will be back for his last Olympics should he decide to play one more season at the ripe age of 41 with the improving Ottawa Senators.
On defense, the Nordic country can count on a solid brigade lead by former Norris Trophy winner, Erik Karlsson. The offensive-minded rearguard will be supported by a strong cast of players such as Viktor Hedman, Niklas Kronwall and Alexander Edler.
In goal, the choice is not difficult as King Henrik Lundqvist is the obvious choice to get the bulk of the workload with towering netminder Anders Lindback and late-bloomer Viktor Fasth backing him up.
Seeding for the 2014 Sochi Olympics:
Group A: Russia (1), Slovakia (6), USA (7), Slovenia (18)
Group B: Finland (2), Canada (5), Norway (8), Austria (15)
Group C: Czech Republic (3), Sweden (4), Switzerland (9), Latvia (11)
The format will be the same as in Vancouver 2010 as the four teams with the best record (the group winners and the second-place team with the best record) advance to the quarter-finals. Sweden will be in a tough group with Czech Republic and the ever-improving Switzerland that can shuffle the cards and surprise.
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Daniel Sedin||Henrik Sedin||Daniel Alfredsson|
|Henrik Zetterberg||Nicklas Backstrom||Johan Franzen|
|Gabriel Landeskog||Alex Steen||Loui Eriksson|
|Carl Hagelin||Patrik Berglund||Patric Hornqvist|
|Alexander Edler||Erik Karlsson||Henrik Lundqvist|
|Niklas Kronwall||Tobias Enstrom||Victor Fasth|
|Victor Hedman||Oliver Ekman-Larsson|
Carl Gunnarsson (D), Jonathan Ericsson (D), Viktor Stalberg (LW), Marcus Kruger (C), Anders Lindback (G)
Douglas Murray (D), Johnny Oduya (D), Adam Larsson (D), Niklas Hjalmarsson (D), Kristian Huselius (RW), Mikael Backlund (C), Jacob Silfverbeg (C), Mika Zibanejad (C), M. Johansson (C), Johan Hedberg (G), Jonas Gustavsson (G), Jhonas Enroth (G), Jacob Markstrom (G)
As you can see, Team Sweden boasts the best defensive corps of the tournament with three solid pairings who can contribute offensively as well as shut down the opposition every game. They are big and fast with Kronwall, Hedman, Edler and Ekman-Larsson all recording more than 20 points in the 48-game shortened NHL season while Karlsson (14 points in 17 games) and Enstrom (15 points in 22 games) missed 31 and 26 games respectively.
On attack, the country can count on a plethora of offensive options with a good mix of snipers and passers. Gabriel Landeskog and Johan Franzen can lay out big hits and drive the net, while Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Backstrom and Daniel Alfresson can distribute the puck. Snipers Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson can be dominant on the power play and two-way specialists such as Alex Steen and Henrik Zetterberg can handle penalty killing duties.
Should injuries happen during the season prior to the Olympic break, Sweden will be able to count on a solid pool of talented players, so depth won’t be a problem for this Scandinavian land.
Please note that teams will be allowed to carry 25 players to the tournament (but only 22 can dress for a game) compared to 20 players for a regular NHL game.
The 2006 gold medalists in Turin did not have the same success in Vancouver in 2010, losing to Slovakia in a tightly-contested quarterfinal game. Sweden will head to Sochi looking to come back on the highest step of the podium and they certainly have a deep roster capable of competing for gold.