The 2004 IIHF World U20 Championships are less than a month away and the Swedish roster is starting to take shape. Head coach Torgny Bendelin will likely announce the squad later this week. Elite League players Alexander Steen, Robert Nilsson, Loui Eriksson and Nicklas Danielsson are four players that are locks to make the team. They are all more or less regulars in the Swedish Elite League and expected to carry Sweden’s offense.
Alexander Steen, C (Age: 19)
Steen has this season taken his play to another level. He doesn’t look like a junior anymore, but an established SEL star. Steen sees quality icetime with his team Frölunda and is centering the third line at the moment. He is arguably the best all-round prospect in Sweden today and has no major weaknesses. Last season Steen looked a bit slow in some situations but now he looks stronger and quicker. He will be the most important player for team Sweden in this year’s tournament. Steen was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Robert Nilsson, LW (Age: 18)
Kent Nilsson’s son had an awful start with Leksand and was quickly demoted from the second line to the fourth. Now it seems as Nilsson is back on track as he has scored four points in his last five games. Nilsson might not be as complete as Steen but he has a great upside and is very gifted offensively. With his great playmaking ability he’ll be setting up plays on the power play and Swedish fans can only hope that someone will be there to finish them off, Sweden’s major weakness in previous tournaments. Nilsson was drafted in the first round (15th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders.
Loui Eriksson, RW (Age: 18)
The Dallas Stars took this youngster early in the second round of the draft this summer. At first people were somewhat surprised with him being picked so early, but Eriksson has showed the critics wrong. Playing on Frölunda’s fourth line, with sometimes limited icetime, Eriksson has achieved great things. He is among the highest scoring rookies in the SEL this season and has been heavily praised by his coach Conny Evensson. Eriksson will be a nice addition to the Swedish team with his energetic and fearless play. He has great speed along with a strong passing game and a good scoring touch.
Nicklas Danielsson, F (Age: 18)
Danielsson is perhaps the only true sniper on the Swedish team. He was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks this summer (5th round, 160th overall ) after a good rookie campaign last season. This season Danielsson had a tough start with limited icetime on the fourth line in Brynäs. He was sent down to the second tier league after a while but was shortly called up again. As soon as he was back he received more icetime and started to put the puck in the net.
Danielsson has been the most impressive forward for the Swedish team in the three U20 tournaments that have been held this season.
A more comprehensive analysis of the Swedish team and all its players will be posted before the tournament.