This year’s host of the U-20 World Junior Championships, Sweden, has recently released the team roster that will try to improve its record at the annual tournament. In previous years, the U-20 team has had trouble scoring, despite having good offensive players. With solid but unspectacular defense and goaltending, offense is the simple reason for the lack of success in the tournament.
The combination of players for this year’s team looks a lot like that in the previous years. There are a couple of players with good offensive instincts, several average defensemen and two solid defensemen.
If this team is going to have suscess it will have to be a good portion of luck, offensive production from the top players and stellar goaltending.
Thirteen of Sweden’s players have been drafted by NHL teams, including two by the St. Louis Blues, and two by the New Jersey Devils.
This rookie sensation has been on fire in the Swedish Elitserien so far this season and there is no questioning his place on the team. He is supposed to be the starting goalie at least for the initial stage of the tournament.
He’s quick, both with his glove and pads. He’s very fluid and moves well along the ice. He covers the net well and isn’t afraid of playing the puck. He’s sharp, focused and reads the play. He plays a butterfly style and goes down early which leaves some holes up high.
Gistedt went undrafted last season, but with a strong performance at the WJC and continued success in Elitserien, he could be a solid selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Jhonas Enroth (BUF)
Enroth is the youngest player on the Swedish team and only one of two 88-borns. He was a rock for the U-18 team last season and has had a solid season so far in Allsvenskan, his first in a men’s league.
Quick and moving well in the net, Enroth has a good glove and quick pads. His size at 5’10 is a big problem as he has big holes all across the net because of his small stature. He plays a butterfly style, goes down prematurely and stays down for too long. He shows a lot of confidence in the net and plays the puck a lot.
Enroth has had tremendous success at international level and could once again put on a show. At the start he will likely be the backup, but there is a good chance that he could take over and lead the team.
Right-shooting Nevalainen has had a solid season with Björklöven with nine points in 24 games. This is his second year as a regular with the men’s team and his role is growing.
He’s a small, puck-moving defenseman who thinks the game well and has good hockey sense. He lacks size and physical play, however.
His selection to the team is a bit questionable as there is at least one other defenseman (Niklas Andersen, LA) who would have probably provided more to the team. Nevalainen will likely see limited ice time.
Alexander Hellström (STL)
Another Björklöven defenseman, Hellström, has also had a solid start to the season and has played a vital role for his team.
He has developed since the 2006 draft, and is now more comfortable in his own end. He has good size, provides physical presence and keeps the game simple.
Hellström has been a regular with the national team for some time now and he will be one of the leaders defensively on this team.
Jonas Junland (STL)
Junland has had problems with some injuries over the last two years, but this season he has been in good shape and kept developing his game. He has split time with three different teams at three different levels.
His crisp passing can be game=breaking as he has very good hands and on-ice vision. He delivers good passes on a consistent level and is very creative and poised with the puck. He is used in all situations and logs a ton of ice time. He has very strong arms and has a very good, hard and accurate wrist and slapshot.
Junland will be looked upon for delivering offense. He will log a lot of minutes and play the point on the power play.
Ribbenstrand has secured a spot on the men’s team for a second season with Djurgården this season and has been contributing to a young team. He’s now getting an increased role.
He’s not very big, but he has a big heart and plays his guts out. He plays an abrasive game and likes to use his body. He has limited skill level and will not be looked upon for providing offense.
He’s a veteran on this team and will get a good number of minutes in all situations.
Jonas Ahnelöv (PHO)
Anhelöv started the season slowly and got very limited ice time with Frölunda in Elitserien. In the past few weeks he has been getting more responsibilities and is hitting his stride.
He has good size and is a very strong player with good hitting ability. He plays a solid two-way game and can play in all situations. He’s a very good skater who can carry the puck with poise and support the offense.
Ahnelöv will play top-4 minutes on the team and could be among the offensive leaders on the defense.
Daniel Rahimi (VAN)
A surprise selection at the draft last season, Rahimi has accomplished quite a lot since. He has signed an NHL contract with Vancouver, attended their training camp and secured a spot with the men’s team of Björklöven.
He has good size and delivers punishing hits along the boards. He’s a solid skater and can make the simple plays. His offensive game needs a lot of development as well as his defensive zone coverage.
Rahimi will be looked upon for providing defensive coverage and physical play. He will have to fight for his minutes as he looks like a No. 6 or 7 defenseman for this team.
Niklas Hjalmarsson (CHI)
Hjalmarsson has split time with three different teams this season and hasn’t really blossomed as expected. He has played 20 games with HV-71 in Elitserien with limited ice time.
Overall, he’s a rock-solid defenseman who provides stability in his own end and offense on the other side. He has good size and is capable of being a physical presence. He’s a mobile skater and a puck-moving defenseman who can log tons of minutes.
“Hjalle” as he is called, will be one of the leaders on the team both on and off the ice. He is the go-to guy on the defense and will play a huge role for the team.
Tom Wandell (DAL)
HC Ässät (Finland)
Wandell took a different path than the rest of his peers in order to make sure that his development goes in the right direction. He left Sweden and is now playing with Ässat in the top Finnish league. So far he has registered five goals and nine points in 26 games.
He’s a mid-sized forward with very good hockey instincts. He’s smart, has good vision and is a deft playmaker. On the downside he lacks the physical aspect of the game as he’s not very interested in getting his nose dirty.
Wandell will likely see top-three line minutes in an offensive role.
Patric Hörnqvist (NAS)
Hörnqvist was a hidden gem when it came to his draft year, but he has made huge strides in the last two years and is now a big contributer to Djurgårdens’ success in Elitserien.
Hörnqvist has good intensity and a scorer’s instinct. He’s very dangerous around the net and has a solid shot. Over the last two years he has improved his skating a lot and is now a capable top-two liner for this team.
Look for him to contribute offensively and be one of the team’s top scorers.
IF Malmö Redhawks
Thuresson went undrafted last season because of his poor skating. This season he has developed that area of his game to a level where it no longer is a big concern. He has polished his overall game is a solid Elitserien player.
“Thure” is a good sized forward with a tremendous attitude. He plays with exceptional intensity and is always hitting. He loves the physical part of the game and will be one of the on-ice leaders for the team. He also has a huge shot that will likely result in a few goals in the tournament.
For now it looks like he will be assigned to one of the third or fourth lines as a winger, but don’t be surprised if he racks up solid points. He looks like a surefire 2007 draft pick right now.
Patrik Berglund (STL)
VIK Västerås HK
Here’s a player who will carry a huge offensive load for this team. Many observers turn too much attention to superstar Niklas Bäckström and leave this prodigy in the shadows. Berglund has had a sensational season with Västerås and gives this team a great 1-2 punch down the middle.
Berglund has great size, soft hands and very good hockey sense. He plays a good two-way game and isn’t afraid of using his body in all three zones. He shows good work ethic and is aware defensively. He controls the tempo off the game and has the ability to create on his own.
If Bäckström is labeled as the next Peter Forsberg, than Berglund is the next Mats Sundin. He will be a huge contributor to this team’s success.
Johansson has been a member of the national teams for a long time and it’s no surprise that he made the WJC squad. He has had a solid season with Bofors in Allsvenskan and has a lot to offer.
Johansson is small in size, but has very good skating ability and is skilled. He uses his speed to his advantage and likes to handle the puck at high speed. He has soft hands and is a shifty puckhandler who also has very good hockey sense and playmaking ability.
He will have a role as one of the checkers and will get a lot of ice time on the penalty-killing unit.
Alexander Sundström (NJ)
Sundström has had a solid season with Björklöven, but he has untapped potential that could come on display at this tournament.
With great skating ability and shiftiness, Sundstrom has good foot speed which he uses to shake off his coverage and he’s smooth as silk on the ice. He has very strong puckhandling skills and is very creative offensively. He reads the game very well and is a smart player.
Sundström will likely start as the third line center but could very well turn out as one of the team’s leading scorers.
Nicklas Bergfors (NJ)
Lowell Devils (AHL)
Bergfors is in his second season in the AHL and is doing very well for a player of such young age. He has also played the most games for the national team of all players and therefore will be expected to provide leadership.
He is an average skater who has good foot speed and acceleration. He moves his feet non-stop and tries to play a high-speed game. He has above average puck skills and likes to shoot the puck. He has good hockey sense and on-ice vision and reads the game well.
Bergfors, together with Bäckström and Berglund, are the expected big leaders on the offense.
Nicklas Bäckström (WAS)
Bäckström is the superstar of the this team and could be for the whole tournament. He has proved that last season wasn’t a fluke and he is a dominant player in Elitserien as well as the senior national team.
Bäckström is a solid skater who has a fluid stride and good acceleration. He plays a speedy game and is a wonderful puckhandler. He has the ability to go coast-to-coast with the puck. He creates space for himself and his teammates with his great vision and hockey sense.
With all the talent in the world, he “only” has to be able to control the pressure from being labeled as the savior and leader for the Swedish team from all experts and media from across the hockey world.
Isaksson has turned into a solid player in Elitserien. He has played in 30 games with Luleå and has seen limited action. He has been used on special teams on a few occasions and hasn’t looked out of place.
He plays the game as a small, high-energy checker. He has impressive skating ability and solid hands. He also possesses average hockey sense and playmaking ability.
He will fight for ice time on the fourth line as a checker and could see some time on the penalty-killing unit.
Fredrik Pettersson (EDM)
Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Pettersson is in his second season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, and only one of two players on this team who play in North America. He had a very good camp with the Edmonton Oilers before being sidelined with an injury.
He has a big heart for the game and plays with tons of intensity and spark. He’s a skilled player who has a nose for the net. He also possesses good hockey sense and is capable of playing on the power-play unit.
Pettersson is a veteran on this team and has seen plenty of international experience during his junior career. He’ll be a leader for this team in all kinds of situations.
Zackrisson has been a member of the national teams since the age of 16. He has also played with the powerhouse Frölunda for most of his time, but made a switch to Rögle of Allsvenska for this season. That has proven to be a good move as he has developed his game well and is contributing offensively.
He’s a very smart player with good hockey sense and deft playmaking skills. He has good skating ability and is shifty down low. He is mature and plays a responsible two-way game.
”Zacke” will probably be used on the third and fourth lines as a support player who can chip in offensively. He could also see time on the penalty-killing unit.
Omark has been a big surprise in Elitserin this season. Not only has he secured a regular spot, but also contributed offensively. He has registered four goals and 11 points in 30 games.
Omark is very similar to Isaksson in his play, although he’s more polished offensively. He’s small, skates very well and has impressive intensity.
He could be a surprise contributer to the team’s success. He’s not an NHL prospect, but could be a valuable player for this team.
Lindquist has seen limited ice time with Luleå and has also had problems with an injury. He has only played in 15 games this season, scoring a lone goal.
Lindquist is a typical role player who likes to use his body down low. He is a solid skater who has good speed and agility. He has a good attitude and shows tremendous work ethic. He likes to play the body and finishes his checks all over the ice.
He will be expected to provide energy and physical play on the fourth line.
Molinder has had trouble cracking the Modo lineup in Elitserien, though he was a dominant player at the junior-A level.
Molinder is a strong two-way center who is above average in most categories. He has solid size and looks bigger than his listed height. He has very good speed and is a strong skater with quick, explosive feel. He has natural hockey sense and is very smart with and without the puck.
He will be fighting for the third-line center spot with Sundström, who could also be used as a right winger. Nonetheless, Molinder will be a solid two-way player.
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