Article has been updated on December 5th after the release of the final camp roster.
The World Juniors are just three weeks away. Time to get excited! I released my projected Team Finland for the WJC a few days ago. This time, it’s time to project Team Sweden. My Finnish team had 25 players but apparently WJC teams are only allowed to register 23 players on their rosters, so I cut them down to that number for the Swedes.
This lineup is created with the assumption Rasmus Dahlin won’t be available for the Swedes. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say he’s not going anywhere from Buffalo.
Without further ado, let’s go through the lineup one line at a time.
I’m assuming the Ducks release Lundeström for the tournament since he’s been playing in the AHL recently. Lundeström is the best all-around forward on this team, so I’m expecting him to play big minutes in all situations for the Swedes. Elvenes is a very talented playmaking winger whereas Bemström is one of the best goal-scorers in the tournament, so I think this line could do some serious damage. They should also stick together on the power play where Elvenes runs things from the right half-wall while Bemström shoots one-timers from the left side. Elvenes and Bemström played together at the most-recent U20 tournament in Czech Republic but the center between them was changing every game. Obviously they didn’t have Lundeström available there, so getting him should solve the issue.
Olofsson is another great all-around center who is a favorite among coaches, so I believe the second line will be built around him. There’s some familiarity between him and Hållander because they both play for Timrå team in the SHL but they do usually play on different lines there. Either way, Hållander is having a strong season and deserves a spot on the second line. Fagemo went undrafted last summer but he’s having a great season, and he’s also heating up recently. It wouldn’t surprise me if Fagemo was drafted in the second round next summer.
Höglander is the only first-time draft-eligible player on this roster. He’s been a full-time player in the SHL this season, and he’s been trending upwards lately. He also had a great U20 tournament back in August where he was Sweden’s best player by far. The Leafs drafted Holmberg in the sixth round last summer as an overager but that selection is looking pretty smart now as he’s having a good season in the SHL. The Devils drafted Zetterlund in the third round in 2017. There was belief he could miss the tournament because of an injury but he appears to be healthy enough to play.
Fourth line: Rickard Hugg – Oskar Bäck – Johan Södergran
Hugg is an undrafted 19-year-old who could get some consideration next summer because he’s having a good season in the OHL. A good tournament at the world stage could really help with that. Bäck is a versatile forward who can play anywhere in the lineup. He’s a very good defensive player but has some offensive talent as well. The Stars drafted him in the third round last summer. The Kings drafted Södergran in the sixth round last summer. He had a great start to his season in the SHL but has slowed down since then.
13th forward: David Gustafsson
Good, reliable defensive center. Capable of producing some offense at this level as well. The Jets drafted him late in the second round last summer.
These two have a history of playing together on the national team, and they’re both playing high-end hockey in the AHL. Brännström is my choice to be the top ‘D’ for the Swedes but Liljegren is not far behind. I can see Liljegren playing on the top power play whereas Brännström runs the second unit. This pair should play huge minutes and be the top defensive pair in the entire tournament.
Sandin made the surprising jump to the AHL as an 18-year-old but it seems to have worked out well for him. It was tempting to put him together with Liljegren because they both play for the Marlies but in the end, I decided these pairs work better. Boqvist is having a great season in the OHL, and he should get consideration for second power play unit time.
Ginning plays a physical and defensive style which is welcomed on this offense-minded blue line. He’s also often carrying the captain’s ‘C’ on his chest on the national team. Lundkvist was drafted in the first round by the Rangers but he’s had a very difficult season. I would still have him on the team because he can play different roles, and he’s used to playing on both sides. That kind of versatility is important in a tournament like this.
Seventh defenseman: Filip Westerlund
Westerlund has had a difficult season in the SHL but the national team coach seems to like him a lot. The Coyotes drafted him in the second round in 2017.
Notable omissions: The Wild drafted two Johanssons last summer but they didn’t even get invited to the final camp. Filip Johansson was drafted in the first round, and Simon Johansson was drafted in the fifth round as an overager.
Samuel Ersson – Olle Eriksson Ek – Adam Åhman
Flyers draft pick Ersson and undrafted Åhman are both having amazing seasons in the Allsvenskan. But for whatever reason, the national team has been pushing Eriksson Ek as their number one goalie even though his numbers are much worse. All three are good enough to be number one goalies on this team, so it comes down to opportunity and who seizes it. My money is on Ersson.
Rickard Hugg – Oskar Bäck – Johan Södergran
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Isac Lundeström’s picture courtesy of sportbibeln.se
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