SHL Update: January

by Brad Phillips on January 18, 2017

Thanks to a wealth of homegrown talent, Team Sweden absolutely dominated Group A at the 2017 WJHC going 4-0 with a plus-12 goal differential. They followed up the preliminary round with an 8-3 whitewashing of Slovakia in the Quarterfinal before falling to Canada in the Semifinal and losing to Russia in the Bronze medal game. Though they did come home without a medal, there were a number of standout performances from the members of Tre Kroner currently competing in the highest league in Sweden.

 

 

Carl Grundstrom (57th overall, 2016, TOR) The selection of Grundstrom by the Leafs is looking better and better by the day. Seeing close to 20 minutes of ice time per game and playing on the top line with first rounder’s Alexander Nylander and Joel Eriksson Ek, Grundstrom was leaned on heavily and came through. He potted three goals and added four helpers in the seven tournament games and stepped it up when it mattered with two of his three goals coming in the medal round, placing him third on the team in scoring behind his aforementioned linemates.

 

Grundstrom on a breakaway snaps one home

 

Joel Eriksson Ek (20th overall, 2015, MIN)

Playing in his second U20 WJC, Eriksson Ek was expected to be one of Sweden’s top players and he lived up to expectations. Forming a dynamic duo with Alex Nylander, the Wild first rounder and Team Sweden captain lit up the score sheet with a team high six goals and three assists in seven games. Justifiably he was selected by the coaches as one of the top three players on the team. Back with Farjestad, Eriksson Ek recorded an assist in his first game back in the SHL to bring his total to two on the season to go along with a pair of goals in nine games. To date he’s averaging 18 and a half minutes per game and just over two shots per game. There were some rumblings that Eriksson Ek would be brought back to the NHL for the remainder of the year, but GM Chuck Fletcher ultimately decided against it believing it would be more beneficial for Joel to play big minutes with Farjestad as opposed to toiling on the fourth line in Minnesota. This doesn’t necessarily close the door on Eriksson Ek playing again in North America this year.

 

 

Eriksson Ek with a nice goal. And celly to match

 

Rasmus Asplund (33rd overall, 2016, BUF)

Asplund was one of Team Sweden’s best and most consistent players throughout the tournament. In seven games Asplund scored once and added six helpers, the latter being the second highest mark on the team. Four of these came in an 8-3 quarterfinal blowout of Slovakia. Going up against eventual silver medal champions Canada in the semis, Asplund was named player of the game for Sweden in a losing cause. Given his high level of play on the biggest stage for his age group and his development this year in Sweden, Buffalo GM Tim Murray feels that he might not be too far off.

 

Asplund’s only goal of the tourney

 

Lias Andersson (Draft Eligible 2017)

Projected mid-first round pick in the upcoming draft. Andersson got his first taste of U20 action just two and a half months past his 18th birthday and more than held his own. Centering a line with NHL draftees Filip Ahl and Jens Looke, Andersson netted three goals on 19 shots in the seven games he played. Back home skating with HV71, Andersson leads all U19 players in goals (5), assists (4), points (9), PIMs (16) and plus/minus (plus-9) while playing just over 12 and a half minutes per game. Selected by the Kitchener Rangers in the second round of the 2016 import draft, there a good chance he’ll head to southwestern Ontario once drafted in June.

 

Andersson scores against Switzerland

 

Rasmus Dahlin (Draft eligible 2018)

The youngest player to suit up for their country at the 2017 WJHC, Dahlin’s presence was heavily anticipated as the hockey community. Serving mostly as the team’s seventh defenceman his ice time usage was sporadic from game to game; 8:50, 12:17, 7:02, 15:50, 10:43, 6:08 (all of this time came in the 3rd) and 12:05. Dahlin scored once and added an assist, both coming in the opening game of the tournament against Denmark.

 

Dahlin with a goal and assist vs. Denmark

 

While showing he belonged against the best 18 and 19 years olds in the world, he also showed his youthful inexperience costing his team a medal. Nevertheless will be back next year to atone for this mistake and help Sweden ascend to the podium.

 

 

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