Our roster-projection series for the hypothetical 2022 Olympic tourney featuring NHLers continues. It’s been a lot of fun so far. Thanks to everyone offering the healthy Twitter debates. Click the links below to review the teams I’ve projected to date:
Next up: the Tre Kronor, a.k.a. Sweden.
As always, this will be a deep roster, especially on defense. The Swedes aren’t peppered with superstar forwards but have a lot of talented ones to choose from, most of whom have good two-way minds. The Swedish team as a whole was tough to construct because, after the top rung of players, the nation has so many NHLers who sit in roughly the same tier. I thus expect some pushback on a few of my choices, such as leaving typical international-tourney mainstays Jakob Silfverberg and Niklas Hjalmarsson off the roster. I decided to skew this group a bit younger.
My consultant this time: expert pal Uffe Bodin, a seasoned veteran Swedish hockey reporter who has been a Hockey News correspondent for years. Thanks, Uffe!
It’s go time. Ages as of Feb. 4, 2022.
FORWARD LINE 1: Gabriel Landeskog (29), Elias Pettersson (23), William Nylander (25)
This is a darned exciting line. Landeskog is among the game’s most respected leaders, and he’ll protect his skilled linemates with his heavy-hitting game. Pettersson will be the team’s featured star scorer, but watch out for Nylander, who elevates his game to supernova levels in international play. He had 18 points in eight games at the 2019 World Championship.
FORWARD LINE 2: Filip Forsberg (27), Mika Zibanejad (28), Viktor Arvidsson (28)
Opponents can’t key on any triggerman here, as each member of this line can score. Forsberg and Arvidsson spent much of their NHL careers as linemates. Zibanejad revealed a ceiling higher than anyone imagined this season. With his mix of size and skill, he’s the toughest forward on this team to defend.
FORWARD LINE 3: Andre Burakovsky (26), Nicklas Backstrom (34), Elias Lindholm (27)
Backstrom will be the team’s elder statesman. Even if his game has declined a bit by 2022, his elite intelligence suits him well for a two-way deployment. It makes sense to put goal-scorers on each of his flanks, as few pass the puck better than Backstrom.
FORWARD LINE 4: William Karlsson (29), Mikael Backlund (32), Rickard Rakell (28)
Karlsson and Backlund can be interchangeable at center. This line skews more toward the defensive side of the puck but, like line 3, features two legit goal-scoring talents in Karlsson and Rakell. Every Swedish line can hurt you.
SPARE FORWARDS: Victor Olofsson (26), Emil Bemstrom (22)
Picking backups from a group of similarly rated players was tough, so I went with youth and ceiling. Olofsson, armed with a fantastic shot, proved as a mature NHL rookie he could jump immediately onto a big-league scoring line with Jack Eichel. Bemstrom, the Swedish League’s youngest goal-scoring champ ever, had started to tap into his potential as a Blue Jackets rookie when the March-12 shutdown struck.
Final cuts: Jakob Silfverberg, Carl Soderberg, Calle Jarnkrok, Patric Hornqvist, Andreas Johnsson, Gustav Nyquist, Anton Lander
DEFENSE PAIR 1: Victor Hedman (31), Erik Karlsson (31)
Both will probably be Hall of Famers someday. This duo would’ve been more fearsome had the NHL gone to the 2018 Olympics when they were in their primes, but they’ll be plenty good as 31 year-olds, still in the discussion for the Winter Games’ top pairing.
DEFENSE PAIR 2: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (30), John Klingberg (29)
This pairing isn’t going to punish you, but ‘OEL’ and ‘The Ghost of Gothenburg’ are such smooth puckhandlers that they’ll provide defense by keeping the puck hurtling toward the other team’s zone.
DEFENSE PAIR 3: Rasmus Dahlin (21), Mattias Ekholm (31)
Ekholm plays his off side here, but his reach and stinginess are important. The phenom Dahlin will have evolved further by 2022, and he’s not just an offensive force. He has mean streak that will grow as he becomes a more confident pro.
SPARE DEFENSEMEN: Hampus Lindholm (28), Rasmus Andersson (26)
It hurt to cut Oscar Klefbom, but the combo of Lindholm and Andersson means the Swedes have a lefty and righty on their bench, both of whom are mobile, both of whom have good defensive games.
Final cuts: Oscar Klefbom, Erik Gustafsson, Jonas Brodin, Marcus Pettersson, Adam Larsson, Rasmus Sandin
STARTING GOALTENDER: Jacob Markstrom (32)
The No. 1 job is a coin flip between two puck-swallowing giants: Markstrom and Lehner. I give the edge to Markstrom because he has more experience representing his country in international play.
BACKUP GOALTENDERS: Robin Lehner (30), Linus Ullmark (28)
Lehner arguably has more raw talent than Markstrom, but Lehner hasn’t suited up for Sweden since the 2011 world juniors, so I’m predicting the national team leans toward the goalie it knows better. Sorry, no Henrik Lundqvist. He’ll be 39 years and 11 months old when the 2022 Beijing Games commence.
Final cuts: Anders Nilsson, Marcus Hogberg, Henrik Lundqvist, Gustaf Lindvall, Joel Lassinantti
ROSTER AT A GLANCE
Landeskog-E. Pettersson-W. Nylander
Spares: Olofsson, Bemstrom
Spares: H. Lindholm, Andersson
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