The best uniforms in international hockey will be trotted out again in Beijing and you always have to keep Sweden in mind when talking about medals. Some legends are gone from past Games already – Henrik Lundqvist and the Sedin twins for example – but there has been a steady stream of talent bubbling up to get a chance to play for the Tre Kronor in their stead.
What's interesting about this edition of Team Sweden is how we're seeing generational shifts play out in real time; there are some veterans here that may take on smaller roles that in the past, while other names come to the foreground.
Sweden plays in a pool with archrival Finland, as well as Slovakia and Latvia, both of whom gained entry in the final qualifiers. It's not a Group of Death to be sure, but it won't be a walk in the park, either. Sweden will likely battle Finland for first place but certainly cannot look past the other two opponents. The Swedes last won gold in 2006 and last medalled in 2014, garnering a silver in Sochi. Let's take a look at the potential lineup.
Each team is permitted a roster of 22 skaters (14 forwards, eight defensemen) and 3 goaltenders.
Gabriel Landeskog - Elias Pettersson - William Nylander
Filip Forsberg - Mika Zibanejad - Viktor Arvidsson
William Karlsson - Nicklas Backstrom - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Mikael Backlund - Elias Lindholm
Adrian Kempe, Nils Hoglander
Much like the rival Canadians, the Swedes have more centers than they know what to do with, so players such as Karlsson and Lindholm swap out to the wings. Even there, the talent is solid, led by Landeskog and Forsberg (who could very well flip spots on a depth chart; in this case Landy brings more physicality to an already-skilled trio). If Hagelin is a surprise to you, keep in mind his penalty-killing prowess and Stanley Cup experience. Kempe can sub in with speed, while Hoglander is young, but full of magic. Tough cuts included Victor Olofsson, Alex Wennberg and Andre Burakowsky.
Victor Hedman - John Klingberg
Mattias Ekholm - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Jonas Brodin - Hampus Lindholm
Rasmus Dahlin - Erik Karlsson
The defense corps may not seem as impressive as it would have three years ago when Karlsson and OEL were more highly regarded, but it's still a pretty solid crew. Hedman is one of the best in the NHL, Ekholm is a shutdown king and seeing what Dahlin could do with a strong cast around him is intriguing to say the least. The one fly in the ointment here is that Sweden's best tend to be left-shot blueliners, so some guys had to be moved over to the right side here. I'm sure they won't mind.
Jacob Markstrom, Robin Lehner, Linus Ullmark
The Swedes have a coin flip for the starter's spot – something Lehner is very used to in recent years – but either way they'll be in good shape. Markstrom has extensive international experience, winning gold for his country at the 2013 World Championship. Lehner's been a bit too busy going deep in the NHL playoffs lately for international duty, but he would certainly be up for the challenge as well. Ullmark is a solid third option who will no doubt get some nice reps with Boston early this season.