It is official: The NHL, NHL Players' Association and International Ice Hockey Federation have announced there will be NHL players at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Prior to the agreement between the NHL, NHLPA and IIHF, NHL.com had three writers select the team they would take to Sochi for each of the "big seven" hockey-playing nations. Note: This is not the team the writers project each country's hockey federation will select, but the team they would select at this point.
Russia's dramatic demise in a blowout loss to rival Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics was a huge story, but Sweden also is smarting from a shocking quarterfinal defeat in Vancouver. After breezing through the preliminary round, the Swedes were upset by Slovakia in a game when star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist saw 14 shots and made 10 saves.
Lundqvist will return as the backbone of his nation's team. Sweden might have an interesting advantage in goal over other top medal contenders -- there is no question who is king (pun intended) in the net.
There also is no question Sweden will be loaded when it arrives in Sochi. The only country that can match the depth and star power among skaters is Canada, and it doesn't have Lundqvist.
The Swedish forwards are expected to be led by new NHL teammates Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson and longtime teammates Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. There could be an infusion of speed and youth up front with Carl Hagelin, Gabriel Landeskog and Jakob Silfverberg in contention for roster spots to go along with stalwarts Nicklas Backstrom, Loui Eriksson and Johan Franzen.
Nicklas Lidstrom has said he doesn't want to play in Sochi after retiring before the start of the 2012-13 season. That said, the Sweden defense will still be deep and talented. Five names are on each of NHL.com roster: Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and Niklas Kronwall. That's five players likely to be the No. 1 defenseman for an NHL team in 2013-14, and they could be supplemented by veterans Niklas Hjalmarsson and Tobias Enstrom or younger players Jonas Brodin and Adam Larsson.
Here are the projected rosters for Sweden:
MIKE G. MORREALE
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