Team Sweden Taking Shape
Sweden has named 13 of its 23 players who will suit up for the Olympics in February 2002. In March they announced the first ten players, and those ten were joined today by three more. As the team starts to take shape, a serious contender is beginnning to emerge.
I have yet to hear about an official camp or invitation list but it is clear that Sweden is justified in their hopes of earning a medal this winter. Although they do not necessarily have the depth that Canada and the Czech Republic have, there are plenty of high quality Swedes who will make up the squad.
In goal, it is a lock that Tommy Salo will be the starter. Unless he is deathly ill or seriously injured, Tommy will provide spectacular netminding as he always does for Sweden, and for the Edmonton Oilers. Backing him up could be Pittsburgh’s late season hero Johan Hedberg or Toronto’s new back up Mikael Tellqvist.
The defencemen who have already be named are: Calle Johannson (WSH), Mattias Ohlund (VCR) Mattias Norstrom (Kings) and Nicklas Lidstrom (DET). Other names in the running for the final 3 openings include Marcus Ragnarsson (San Jose), Kenny Jonsson (NYI), Niclas Havelid (Anaheim), Anders Ericksson (Leafs) and Veteran Tommy Albelin. There are others as well but these seem to be the better known names (in North America anyway).
8 of the 13 forwards have had their names written in ink so far. These include: Mats Sundin (Leafs), Peter Forsberg (Colorado), PJ Axelsson (Bruins), Mikael Renberg (Leafs), Markus Naslund (Canucks), Niklas Sundstrom (San Jose), Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa) and Jorgen Jonsson (formerly with Anaheim). The last 5 forward spots are being competed for by the Sedin twins (Vancouver), Mats Lindgren (NYI), Michael Nylander (Chicago), Sami Pahlsson (Anaheim), Per Svartvadet and Andreas Karlsson (both Thrashers), Jonas Hoglund (Leafs), Fredrik Modin (Tampa), Patric Kjellberg (Preds), Tomas Holmstrom (Detroit), Ulf Dahlen (Caps) and Andreas Dackell (Montreal). Also up for consideration should be Kristian Huselius (Florida) who, I believe, was the top scorer in Sweden last year.
Solid goaltending and defence coupled with more than adequate forwards makes Sweden a team to be feared. It will be a test for any team to beat them, the Swedes have been known to steal victories in the past. Few will forget Peter Forsberg’s shootout goal against Canada, right after Salo stoned Paul Kariya, to give Sweden the gold in ’94 (Is that right, ’94?).
I currently rank the teams this way:
1) Czech Republic (defending gold medalists, 2 time World Champs)
2) Canada (am I a homer? Don’t underestimate this squad)
3) Sweden (traditionally strong, well balanced team)
4) USA (could have best forward lines, but less than great blueline and very questionable goaltending. Home ice advantage BIG intangible).
5) Finland (I would have ranked them ahead of the US if the games were anywhere else besides in the States).
6) Russia (past several years have been disastrous for Russia in international play. Several good individuals but as a team…)
7) Slovakia (have the potential to surprise a team, but only if they get past the pre-lims so their NHL’ers get a chance to play).
8) Germany (Not as good as Slovakia, same problem with NHL’ers.)
9) Latvia (ditto)
10) Switzerland (will probably make it to the Elite 8 because they won’t face the above 3 in the preliminaries.)
I welcome your comments, especially if you have any Swede players to add to the list of names contending for spots.
Writer for the Oilers and the 2002 Olympics