Photo by Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images
The World Juniors are the most wonderful time of year. The Holiday tradition of the best junior tournament in the world holds a special kind of magic.
Each year the tournament has breakout players that use the tournament to propel their careers towards stardom. In turn, that raises the fantasy value of prospects as well. Just the prestige of making the team for Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, or Sweden can help raise a player’s fantasy stock and ownership.
Indeed, the WJC is a must watch tournament for many reasons. The entertainment value is always a 10/10, the hockey is excellent, and it is an opportunity to scout your fantasy hockey prospects.
With that in mind let’s get ready by reviewing the players that will be in this tournament.
Just as a quick refresher before we get started here. This year’s WJC format comprises of two groups with five teams all of which play in round robin tournament. This will determine where each team will seed after all games, followed up by elimination matches. Team Sweden is in Group A which consists of Austria, Germany, Czechia and Canada. Not an easy group by any means but Sweden still has a fairly good chance to be at the top of the table with Canada. Group B consists of Switzerland, Finland, USA, Slovakia and Latvia.
Sweden is coming into this tournament looking to beat their third place finish from the 2022 World Juniors. Although the Swedish team has historically been a top four favorite in this tournament, there are a few significant omissions to this year’s Swedish roster which may be of slight concern. Most notably Simon Edvinsson, Elias Salomonsson and Mattias Hävelid. Both Salomonsson and Hävelid are missing the tournament due to injuries and Edvinsson has opted out of this year World Juniors to further focus on his development in Grand Rapids (AHL) with the Detroit Red Wings. The blue line is taking a major hit without these three players however Sweden is still considered a top four favorite by odds makers. This team has been known to put up strong round robin performances and then come up short during elimination matches. This year looks to be another uphill battle for the Swedish team that has lost a good chunk of their defensive core.
A total of 24 players make up Team Sweden’s roster with a few changes. Here are possible lineup projections on how Team Sweden may look for the tournament.
Isak Rosén – Leo Carlsson – Fabian Lysell
Victor Stjernborg – Filip Bystedt – Fabian Wagner
Liam Öhgren – Noah Östlund – Jonthan Lekkerimäki
William Strömgren – Milton Oscarsson – Simon Robertsson
Calle Odeius – Ludvig Jansson
Adam Engström – Victor Sjöholm
Elias Petterson – Axel Pellikka-Sandin
Jakob Norén – Hugo Jonasson
It is not all doom and gloom here, while a few key pieces are missing this month the door opens up for a few others. Looking at the roster and projected lineups there is some good news. First and foremost the potential line of Rosén, Lysell and Carlsson will drive a lot of offence and create problems for the opposition. However, many are looking forward to watching the line better known as the Djurgårdens IF trio of Liam Öhgren, Noah Östlund and Jonathan Lekkerimäki. All three of these players are Sweden’s cream of the crop and first round draft picks in the 2022 NHL Draft. This will be their first opportunity to play alongside each other in the World Juniors. It does not stop there: Lysell and Rosén were also 2021 first round selections by the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabers respectively. There is a lot to like about these young forwards.
In spite of the losses of big names on the back end, the selection of defensemen for this tournament is fairly solid. What you will see is a decent mix of highly skilled reliable two-way defenders rather than aggressive offensive defensemen who will fill the stat sheet. That job is a perfect match for the forwards.
Let’s take a closer look at the players on Team Sweden.
Fabian Wagner, Linköping HC (SHL) – Winnipeg Jets
Drafted 175th overall in 2022 this is Wagner’s first go at the WJC. He has a strong sense of the puck that helps him create passing opportunities for his line mates. He is a versatile player with true playing abilities who can slot in at the right wing and centre positions.
Fabian Lysell, Providence Bruins (AHL) – Boston Bruins
Lysell will be one of the few player listed on the roster who has already experienced the WJC. He made his AHL debut with the Providence Bruins and has come out solid posting nearly a point per game pace of 19 points over 20 games.
Noah Östlund, Djurgårdens IF (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Buffalo Sabers
Making his WJC debut, Östlund was loaned to Djurgårdens IF and is putting up a great season in the Hockey Allsvenkan league in Sweden. He has scored two goals and nine assists over 19 games. Putting up these types of numbers among this league of men is very impressive. Odds are he will be the first line centre for Sweden. I cannot wait to see what he looks like in a few years.
Filip Bystedt, Linköping HC (SHL) – San Jose Sharks
Bystedt is a dangerous playmaking centre with a lot of size. The San Jose prospect was selected 27th overall and has been playing in the SHL and is top five in scoring over a 26 game span with 11 points. His offensive flare is not something to write home about but he certainly is force to reckon with.
Isak Rosén, Rochester Americans (AHL) – Buffalo Sabers
This year Rosén made the move to the AHL and is playing with the Rochester Americans. He looks to be fitting right in and is putting up better numbers now than in the past with the SHL and Hockey Allsvenkan. Rosén has been known for putting up strong numbers for Team Sweden so this may be another good tournament for the Buffalo Sabers first round pick.
Liam Öhgren, Djurgårdens IF (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Minnesota Wild
Returning for this second chance at a medal at the WJC, Öhgren is currently on loan to Djurgårdens. Look for Öhgren to stand out this tournament with his highly physical game. He is a solid two way player with exception playmaking abilities and he also happens to have a hell of shot.
Leo Carlsson, Örebro HK (SHL) – Undrafted
Carlson is one of the few undrafted forwards on the team. He is currently 17 years of age and is touted as being one to watch. At his age he is already 6-feet-3 and 195 pounds. Carlsson certainly packs a punch with his size but he also is known for his skating, speed and vision when on the ice. He is draft eligible in 2023.
William Strömgren, Brynäs IF (SHL) – Calgary Flames
Strogrem has five points over 26 games in the SHL. His number with the J20 Nationell league looks very impressive however, since moving over to the SHL, the transition has been a little harder on his play. Strömgren will be a depth player on the Swedish national team this year.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Djurgårdens IF (Hockey Allsvenkan) – (Vancouver Canuks)
Lekkerimäki is a sure shot to leave an impression for the Swedish team and is among the highest draft players between the Djurgårdens trio. Lekkerimäki has had a tough start to the season however on an international level he is known to rack up the points, posting 44 points over 33 games with Sweden.
Milton Oscarson, Örebro HK (SHL) – Undrafted
He just joined the SHL and has not produced at the men’s level over 25 games. I do not expect him to have a big role at the WJC aside from a depth player who can play both the centre and right wing positions.
Victor Stjernborg, Växjö Lakers HC (SHL) – Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks 108th overall pick is back for another chance. He does not possess a lot of offensive flare so do not expect Stjernborg to be a fantasy monster but he is a defensive juggernaut. You will see him on the ice against the other team’s highest skilled players.
Oskar Pettersson, Rögle BK (SHL) – (Ottawa Senators)
Set to turn 19 in Feb 2023 Oskar Pettersson played very well with Rögle BK J20 with over a point per game pace. Since then he has moved on to the SHL playing with Rögle BK and the jump has been rocky. Hopefully a strong outing at the WJC will help with his confidence when he returns back to the SHL.
Simon Robertsson, Piteå HC (HockeyEttan) – St. Louis Blues
Previously playing with Skellefteå AIK in the SHL Robertsson was loaned to the Piteå HC in the HockeyEttan. Since joining he has only played one game posting one assist. From 2021 to 2023 Robertsson has jumped up and down from the J20 Nationell to the SHL a few times. His world junior play has not been anything ground-breaking so do not expect much from Robertssson over the course of this tournament.
Elias Pettersson, Örebro HK (SHL) – Vancouver Canucks
Petersson is a great two-way defender with a very high level of hockey IQ. He was drafted 80th overall and was over a point per game player while in the J20 league. Let’s see if that can translate over to the WJC with a few elite line mates.
Hugo Jonassan, IK Oskarshamn (SHL) – Undrafted
It is a first all around for Jonassan this year with being selected to play in the WJC and also represent Sweden. Last year he played the majority of his season with the J20 Nationell and was then brought up to play a few games in the SHL. This year he was called up earlier in the season and has since stayed in the SHL for the past 12 games.
Axel Sandin-Pellikka, Skellefteå AIK (SHL) – Undrafted
Teams are salivating over Sandin-Pellikka. This is one player you should add to your prospect list and keep an eye on. Pelikka is projected to be a first round draft pick with extremely high upside. He was arguably Team Sweden’s standout player for the Hlinka Gretzky tournament. He should be primed to play for big and key minutes in this tournament.
Victor Sjöholm, Södertälje SK (HockeyAllsvenkan) – Undrafted
Sjöholm is slightly on the smaller side when it comes to defensemen. He comes in at 5-foot-8 and 163 pounds. He does not have the best offensive numbers and his size may be a contributor to that however what he lacks in stature he makes up for with grit, being hard to beat and playing extremely physical.
Calle Odelius, Djurgårdens IF (Hockey Allsvenkan) – New York Islanders
Odelius is best known for his elite skating and physical play. His energy is contagious and he can get his teammates going. He will certainly be a player that is heavily leaned on during the tournament and will log a lot of minutes.
Adam Engström, Rögle BK (SHL) – Montreal Canadians
Engström is a defensively reliable and strong skater who is able to move the puck up the ice and out of the defensive zone quickly. He is a big body at 6-foot-2 and uses his size to crowd the front of the net making it difficult for the opposing team. Engström may get the chance to play on the second power play unit however there are a few other skilled defensemen that may get a look before him.
Ludvig Jansson, Södertälje SK (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Florida Panthers
Jansson is the only player on this defensive core that has any WJC experience. He was drafted 125th overall by the Florida Panthers. He would have been drafted earlier if not for being injured during his draft year. With this level of skill he has the potential to become top tier defensemen.
Jakob Norén, MoDo Hockey (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Undrafted
Norén has quickly built a reputation as a highly skilled and effective skater. He is currently undrafted and playing for Modo Hockey in his first year and is getting his first chance at playing at the WJC. He will be playing alongside his Modo Hockey team mate Oscar Pettersson. As a U20 player in the Hockey Allsvenkan, Norén has put up a decent six points over 24 games.
Carl Lindbom, Djurgårdens IF (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Las Vegas Golden Knights
The Las Vegas Golden Knights prospect is back but in the starting role this year. Last year Jesper Wallsteadt was the starter however based on age he is no longer eligible to play. The 19-year-old is having a great season in the Hockey Allsvenkan. Over the course of 21 games he has posted a 0.936 save percentage, goals against average of 1.78 with an overall recorded of 15 wins and six losses. He will have fellow defenseman Calle Odelius in front of him which will certainly help with team chemistry.
Ian Blomqvist, Västerås IK (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Undrafted
Blomqvist will in all likelihood be set to take the backup role for this year’s tournament. He has very little international experience and I only see him taking the top spot if Lindlom falters and they have no other choice but to bring him in. Blomqvist has played 10 games with the Västerås IK putting up a solid .910 save percentage
Marcus Brännman – Västerås IK (Hockey Allsvenkan) – Undrafted
Brännman will be the third string goalie who has not seen much in terms of experience. Do not expect to see him during the course of the tournament.
For those who may be wondering I have posted the 2023 WJC schedule for Team Sweden
Group A. Sweden, Canada, Czechia, Germany and Austria.
(All times Eastern)
||TBD (Gold-Medal Game)
Happy watching and have a great holiday season.
Thanks for reading!
— Puneet Sharma