By Allan Muir
The countdown to the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi is on.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation started the clock on Friday morning with the announcement that it had selected 35 players to attend its Olympic orientation camp.
The camp will run August 12-14 in Stockholm.
The invite list features 31 NHL vets -- including Marcus Kruger, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya of the Stanley Cup finalist Chicago Blackhawks -- plus three players from the Swedish Elitserien and one from the KHL.
There's no timetable yet from other federations regarding similar announcements, but all are now officially on the clock. Here's Sweden's list:
Nicklas Grossman, Philadelphia Flyers
Erik Gustafsson, Philadelphia Flyers
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
Johnny Oduya, Chicago Blackhawks
Nicklas Bäckström, Washington Capitals
Jimmie Ericsson, Skellefteå AIK
Johan Franzén, Detroit Red Wings
Carl Hagelin, New York Rangers
Patric Hörnqvist, Nashville Predators
Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals
Marcus Krüger, Chicago Blackhawks
Oscar Lindberg, Skellefteå AIK
Joel Lundqvist, Frölunda HC
Gustav Nyquist, Detroit Red Wings
Niklas Persson, CSKA Moscow
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
With long-time team member Daniel Alfredsson uncertain about his playing future, the only obvious omission is Winnipeg defender Tobias Enstrom. Punishment for passing on the World Championships? Maybe, but it could be argued that there are other players on the list who play a similar game with an added defensive edge, making him redundant. The absence of Staffan Kronwall, who played so well at the Worlds, is another surprise.
There was speculation that Mika Zibanejad and Jacob Silfverberg of the Ottawa Senators might earn a camp invite simply for the experience to prep them for 2018, but it appears the Swedes are looking for more of a competitive push from players like Persson, Lundqvist and Lindberg. But the missing names are nowhere near as curious as the missing element: right-handers. Out of 35 total players, just two, Karlsson and Hornqvist, shoot right. The Swedes can still add players to the mix. If they do, this glaring problem requires addressing.