World Cup of Hockey: Team Sweden preview (Puck Daddy)

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WCOH PREVIEW
WCOH PREVIEW

The World Cup of Hockey is back, with the NHL-backed tournament scheduled for the next few weeks in lovely Toronto. Yahoo Sports will offer on-site coverage from the event; but first, here’s a look at the six nations and the two made-up teams that will battle for the funny-looking trophy.

TEAM SWEDEN

Schedule

Sunday, Sept. 18 – Group B preliminary vs. Russia, 3 p.m. ET

Tuesday, Sept. 20 – Group B preliminary vs. Finland, 3 p.m. ET

Thursday, Sept. 22 – Group B preliminary vs. North America, 3 p.m. ET

Vitals

Career NHL Games – 10,689
Career NHL Goals (Skaters) – 1,979
Career NHL Assists (Skaters) – 4,022
Career NHL Points (Skaters) – 6,001
Career NHL Wins (Goaltenders) – 450
Average Age – 28.2
Average Height (Inches) – 73.6
Average Weight (Pounds) – 197.8
Stanley Cups – 7

Forwards

Vancouver Canucks fans are getting a preview of what could be this coming season with Sweden’s top line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson. Of Eriksson’s three goals scored in exhibition play, he connected with at least one of the Sedin twins on each tally.

The Swedes roll a strong second line of Patric Hornqvist and Filip Forsberg centered by Nicklas Backstrom. Hornqvist tied Johnny Gaudreau for the most points in the exhibition games with five (3 goals, 2 assists). With the exception of Hornqvist’s one unassisted goal, Forsberg factored in to all of the winger’s points. Backstrom was 53-percent or better on the faceoff dot in exhibition.

The Swedes roll four lines pretty steadily; however, the makeup of the bottom two lines have changed throughout exhibition. Lucky for them, they have a plethora of centers to choose from to make up their lines and those guys transition pretty well to wing.

Marcus Krueger missed the team’s last exhibition game against Team Europe with an upper body injury. Krueger is expected to be in Sweden’s first tournament game. He (or Mikael Backlund) have played alongside Jakob Silfverberg and Carl Hagelin.

Patrik Berglund was a late addition to the team after Rickard Rakell went down with a severe stomach ailment. He may be the odd man out with Krueger’s return. Carl Soderberg and Gabriel Landeskog have played all three games on the win or as defensive centers for faceoffs.

Defense

Perhaps you’ve heard of a defenseman named Erik Karlsson? The perennial Norris trophy nominee/winner has averaged 24:30 in total time on ice over three exhibition games. He’s the only defenseman with a revolving partner over those games. He’s been paired with Mattias Ekholm or Hampus Lindhom.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson and partner Niklas Hjalmarsson are the only lefty-lefty shot pairing. OEL carries the second heaviest TOI, averaging 22:06 over three games.

Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman round out the Swedes’ defense. They play together on the Tampa Bay Lightning and are the go-to-guys on the penalty kill.

Goalies

Henrik Lundqvist is the go-to goaltender for the Swedes; however, based on his performance in the exhibition games, if he didn’t have King Henrik stature his No. 1 status may be in doubt. In the two games he appeared in, Lundqvist gave up 8 goals on 36 shots against in 107 minutes on the ice.

So, who will be Lundqvist’s backup?

Jacob Markstrom started the first exhibition game making all 11 saves in 31:03. He was replaced by Jhonas Enroth who gave up 3 goals on 13 shots in the overtime loss. Lundqvist played in and won the second exhibition game. After giving up four goals in 47:01 of the third game, Lundqvist came out and Markstrom went in. The relief netminder stopped the one official shot on goal he faced.

Grade The Jerseys

Team Sweden Jerseys WCoH
Team Sweden Jerseys WCoH

We rated the Swedes’ sweaters the second best of all the jerseys in the World Cup of Hockey when they were first released. To follow that up, we’ll give the Swedes an ‘A’ for the perfect simplicity of the tre kronor.

Special Teams

During exhibition play, the Swedes were 3 for 12 with the extra man. Two of the three power play goals were scored by Loui Eriksson. Eriksson along with the Sedins log a majority of the forward minutes with the man advantage. This might be shocking – Erik Karlsson plays on the power play. Much like Alex Ovechkin, Karlsson rarely, leaves the ice while the Swedes have the extra man. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is added on to complete the unit.

Karlsson also plays all the penalty kill minutes – just kidding. OEL, Hedman and Stralman log the most minutes on the PK. The forward group changes from game to game, but expect to see Backstrom out for a majority of defensive zone draws. The penalty kill has given up at least goal against in every exhibition game.

Coach

The Swedish hockey federation named Rikard Gronborg as the men’s national team coach for the 2016-17 competition year. He was the head coach of the men’s U20 team at World Juniors this past January. The team lost in the bronze medal game to the United States.

They’ll Make It Out of Group Play If …

The top two forward lines stay hot and Erik Karlsson is himself.

They’ll Flop At The World Cup If …

King Henrik can’t live up to the legend.

Prediction

While all the focus is on Team Canada, the Swedes could surprise some people. They are a sneaky good team that will definitely be in contention for their group. Look for them to get out of group play unscathed, if not only slightly battered by Russia, and potentially challenge Canada for the grand prize.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter!

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