Sweden has not lost a round robin game in over ten years but their success in the playoffs hasn’t been as good – they’ve won gold only once during that time. This year, their strengths are in net and on the blue line but their problem area is down the middle. Let’s take a closer look at the players they’re bringing to the tournament this time around.
Sweden has a number of quality wingers. Their leading wingers are second round picks Samuel Fagemo (LAK), Nils Höglander (VAN) and Jonatan Berggren (DET) who are expected to play top-six roles with power play time. Fagemo and Höglander played together with good results in the U20 Four Nations tournament in Helsinki a little over a month ago, so they will likely stick together on the top line. Fagemo already played in the tournament last year.
Additionally, they have two projected top five picks in Lucas Raymond (2020) and Alexander Holtz (2020) who will likely play together on the third line but they will get lots of power play time as well. They might be only 17 years old but they’re so skilled offensively that it wouldn’t be shocking if they became offensive leaders on this team. They have also proven to be difference-makers even in high-stakes situations.
Nikola Pasic (NJD) is expected to fill the final top nine wing spot. He isn’t a well-known prospect – he
went undrafted in his first try and then only got drafted in the seventh round last summer (I thought he was draft-eligible already in 2018 but I was wrong about that) – but he has sleeper potential. He’s had a great season in Allsvenskan, and he’s skilled enough to play a big role in this event.
If there’s an injury or someone slumps badly, Albin Eriksson (DAL) is more than capable of playing a top nine wing role if needed. But until then, he’ll play a more defensive role on the fourth line. The former 44th overall selection may not have the same amount of natural offensive skill as the players ahead of him but he certainly isn’t a player without skill.
So Sweden is pretty set at wing but their problems are down the middle. David Gustafsson (WPG) is expected to be their number one center, and even though he has played in the NHL, he isn’t really known for his great offensive contributions at any level. He has some skill but he’s not really the type of player I would want on the top line. But he can be a good complementary player offensively, and with his strong defensive game, he can take care of defensive responsibilities while the more skilled players at wing take care of offensive contributions more. He also brings leadership abilities, and he’s a returning player from last year’s team.
Karl Henriksson (NYR) is Sweden’s second best center but he will likely play on the third line with Raymond and Holtz because he has a history of playing with the two of them in different tournaments, and he also played with Raymond on Frölunda’s junior team last season.
We are likely going to see Oskar Bäck (DAL) on the second line when in fact he should be used on the fourth line at this level. This is the biggest concern I have with this team. Bäck is a fine player but doesn’t really have the type of offensiv