Sweden names WJC squad

by Peter Westermark
on
Team Sweden named the team that will compete for the finest honours in junior hockey this week and, unlike last year, a fifth place finish will be satifactory for a squad that lacks star quality and quality 1981-born players. Instead, the tournament that will take place in Moscow, Russia, could be seen as a learning experience for a number of budding stars born in 1982.

There were few surprises in the squad, one mild one is that highly touted power forward Jens Karlsson will be left home as a ”non travelling reserve.” Karlsson was considered a possible top ten overall pick in the 2001 Draft at the start of the season, but his stock may be falling as he has only seen spot duty with Frölunda in the Elitserien. Instead, his younger teammate Fredrik Sjöström has not only skated past Karlsson on the Frölunda depth chart, but also on the Team Sweden depth chart. Sjöström, a winger born in May 1983, is the youngest player on the Swedish entry and he has recorded five points in 26 Elitserien games, which can be compared to zero points in nine games for Karlsson.

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Young quintet earns chance with Tre Kronor

by Peter Westermark
on
Team Sweden General Manager Anders Hedberg left a few big names off the roster when he named the team that will compete in the Baltica Brewery Cup that is taking place in Russia starting december 17th.

Stars like goaltender Mikael Tellqvist and forwards Jörgen Jönsson and Mikael Renberg will be allowed to start celebrating christmas early as the Team Sweden officials want a long look at five 1980-born rising stars.

That group starts with 20-year-old HV71 goaltender Stefan Liv, a candidate for rookie of the year in Sweden. Liv, along with Johan Asplund in Brynäs, are the youngest number one goaltenders in the Elitserien. The other goalie making the trek to Russia is 25-year-old Andreas Hadelöv from Malmö, a product of the highly-regarded youth hockey system in Kiruna which has produced goalies such as Peter ”Pekka” Lindmark in the past.

Mathias Weinhandl will make his Tre Kronor debut in Moscow. The MoDo winger´s career suffered a major setback last season when he was high-sticked in the eye by Czech bad boy Michal Travnicek during a game with the Swedish National Junior Team. It was not clear immediately after the accident if he could return to hockey as his right eye was badly injured. Vision in the eye has now stabilized at around 10% and it is not known how much it will improve, if at all.

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Road to WJC´s continue & Sweden names Under-18 squad

by Peter Westermark
on
Sweden has named the national Under-20 team that will participate in the
four nations exhbition tournament in Uddevalla, Sweden, November 10th to
12th.

The Uddevalla tournament is the last exhibition tournament before the start
of the World Junior Championships in late december. The team picked to
participate in Uddevalla will make up the core of the team that will travel
to Russia, so the tournament is a good indication of how high the
expectations should be on the Swedes.

This year´s team lack the flash that last year´s Swedish WJC entry had with
players such as the Sedin-twins and fast rising Red Wings prospect Henrik
Zetterberg. Instead, they will have to rely on a team effort.

The advantage of having more players who are regulars on their club-teams
than Swedish teams have had in previous tournaments should be a factor, and
a better finish than last year´s quarter-final exit is in the cards in spite
of the lack of star quality.

Frölunda´s Henrik Lundqvist enters the tournament as the number one
goaltender. He was drafted by the New York Rangers 205th overall last summer
and has played four games for Frölunda in the Elitserien. Johan Backlund
from Skellefteå will try to unseat him, but has a tough task on his hands.

The defense is somewhat on the small side. Four of the eight defensemen
chosen are six feet tall or shorter. The biggest defenseman is Lars Jonsson,
who is listed at 6´2, 200 pounds. The seventh overall Bruins pick is
expected to be a leader, especially offensively. Jonsson is cur Read more»

Tim Triumphant

by Peter Westermark
on
Goaltender Tim Thomas´ early season performances for AIK in the Swedish Elitserien is leaving hockey people wondering why he isn´t playing in the National Hockey League.

Being no stranger to the European game, the 26-year-old American arrived in Stockholm this summer after spending last season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL. He had previously starred in the Finnish SM-Liiga for powerhouse HIFK Helsinki.

AIK has started the season remarkably well and a lot of the credit goes to Thomas who has backstopped the team to a placing at the top of the league table after eight games. Looking at the American´s statistics it is easy to understand why he is being hailed as a hero with barely one fifth of the season played.

His numbers are simply Hasek-like.

He is sporting a 94.4 save percentage and a goals against average at 1.72, and that is playing behind a defense that was average at best for the most part of last season. Thomas appears calm and quietly confident in the net, whether it´s cutting angles or aggressively challenging shooters.

”Thomas won the game for us today,” said AIK Head Coach Pär Mårts after a mid-october 4-0 road win over Björklöven in which AIK was outshot 37-19. ”We lacked organization, didn´t win any faceoffs or battles along the boards. I´m thanking Tim for the three points,” Mårts elaborated.

Björklöven´s Head Coach John Slettvoll agreed: ”Tim Thomas was unbelievable today.”
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Puck has been dropped in Sweden

by Peter Westermark
on
The Swedish Elitserien started today with two games. Newly promoted Timrå beat reigning champions Djurgården in overtime, 3-2, after 20-year-old starlet Henrik Zetterberg beat goalie Mikael Tellqvist with a low wristshot. AIK defeated MoDo 3-1 on home ice in the other game.

Hopefully, the Timrå – Djurgården game was a sign of things to come in the Elitserien. It was a free-flowing game filled with scoring-chances created by two teams that seemingly couldn´t even spell ”trap”. Considering the increase in odd-man rushes and the effectiveness of quick passing, maybe it´s time for the NHL to follow in the IIHF’s footprints and remove the red line.

The story of the game was highly touted Henrik Zetterberg, the early favourite to win the ”Rookie of the year” award in Sweden. Zetterberg, a 7th round steal by the Detroit Red Wings in 1999, is a 5’11, 180 pound speed-demon oozing of offensive flair.

Another Detroit draft-pick, Djurgården defenseman Niklas Kronwall, is also on the fast track to stardom. The 2000 Entry Draft first round pick (29th overall) is being cast in a more offensive role this season and will make huge improvements on his five point total from the 1999/2000-season.

The early favourites to win the championship this season are Färjestad and Luleå, boosted by the return of former NHLers Jörgen Jönsson and Mikael Renberg, respectively.