Our buddy Benny sent this over. He's pretty excited for the World Juniors this year (aren't we all) and will be doing some team previews for us leading up to the start of the tournament.Over the next few weeks I'll be previewing the ten teams competing at this years World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia. Starting with last years gold medal winners and recent news makers - Sweden. The big news out of Sweden is that the Ottawa Senators organization won’t let the 2012 WJC OT hero, Mika Zibanejad, go to Russia for the World Juniors. The Sens say it will take away from his ability to translate to the North American style of the game and staying with the Baby Sens is the best way to progress his way to becoming an impact player. This sucks for the team and WJC fans, however the Swedes will still have lots of talent at the tourney.
Sweden will have a handful of forwards eligible to return, but the best of them may be the Capitals 11th overall pick, Filip Forsberg. The lines could look something like:
Daniel Zaar could crack the roster and provide some pure offense, however he will likely be limited in minutes as the Swedes have proven to trust a two-way game over a single skill set. Also consider Jeremy Boyce who made the team last year as a bottom six forward to come back. I do not have him added as his faceoff skills have dropped off at the Swedish Elite League level and he only has 1 goal in 26 games with Timra.
On the blueline, the Swedish core took a big hit with Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom injured and out for the tournament. This gives a big opportunity for Hampus Lindholm to prove himself worthy of being the 6th overall pick. Losing a longer term pairing of Patrick Nemeth and John Klingberg also hurts the Swedish squad.
I may be the only person thinking Djoos is capable of playing 20+ minutes a night at the World Juniors, but from what I’ve seen of him at the SEL level this year he has played incredibly well earning about 15 minutes a game and getting some experience paired up with Cody Franson most nights. He is able to use his hands and feet to avoid checks which his small frame would not be able to receive.
Mikael Vikstrand could be a top pairing d-man for this team, but he recently suffered a thumb injury which he will have surgery on after the World Juniors. From reports, he can still play, but how this injury will affect his role or minutes is unknown. He is third in defensive scoring for the Swedish HockeyAllsvenskan with 17 points has more points than Filip Forsberg - interesting for someone who was drafted by the Sens to be a defence-first type of d-man.
The Swedish goaltending situation is pretty interesting. Linus Ullmark has been good at the pro level, but has never been good in international tournaments. Joe Lassanati went undrafted. Oscar Dansk has been inconsistent in the OHL, but was performed well in the U-18 last year and Nicklas Lundstrom won silver for the Swedes at the 2010 U-18. Overall, look for Nicklas Lundstrom and Oscar Dansk to split starts in the round robin, Linus Ullmark might even get a start, but he should be there as a 3rd goalie.
Sweden will be defending their gold medal, but are already facing challenges with injuries to top players. Regardless, they are a top team in the tournament and as defending champs will have a lot of teams gunning for them.