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World Cup

Team Sweden built on skill, experience

Lundqvist, Karlsson named to roster looking to avenge Olympic loss

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Team Sweden's players left the 2014 Sochi Olympics with silver medals hanging around their necks and a whole bunch of what-if questions bouncing around in their brains after a 3-0 loss to Canada in the gold-medal game.

What if Vancouver Canucks center Henrik Sedin was able to play in the tournament instead of withdrawing because of hand and rib injuries? 

What if Detroit Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg didn't have to withdraw after the first game in Sochi because of a back injury?

What if Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom were eligible to play in the gold-medal game against Canada instead of being caught in a doping scandal that wound up being nothing more than a mistake.

"If you're going to play against Canada in an Olympic gold-medal game you better have guys healthy," said Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg, who was an assistant on the Swedish staff in 2014. "There's no question the better team won, but it's one of those things looking back on it, maybe now this is a chance for us to have a healthy team and compete even more."

Video: Team Sweden World Cup of Hockey Jersey Reveal

Their chance comes in six and a half months at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Sweden took its first step toward challenging for a gold medal Wednesday by naming the first 16 players to its roster, featuring two goalies, six defensemen and eight forwards.

There are still spots left for one goalie, one defenseman and five forwards. They have to be named by June 1.

Of the 16 players named Wednesday, 11 played for Sweden in Sochi, including Backstrom and Zetterberg. Henrik Sedin was also named to the World Cup roster.

Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), who helped Sweden win gold at the 2006 Torino Olympics and silver in Sochi two years ago, is back.

Henrik and brother Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks join Lundqvist, Zetterberg and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall as the four players who won Olympic gold with Sweden 10 years ago.

Forwards Loui Eriksson (Boston Bruins), Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche) and Alexander Steen (St. Louis Blues), and defensemen Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), Niklas Hjalmarsson (Chicago Blackhawks) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes) are also from the Olympic squad two years ago.

Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom, Tampa Bay Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, and forward Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators, are the four newcomers to Sweden's roster. None of them have any Olympic experience.

"It looks skilled," Lundqvist said. "I remember that going to the Olympics, you're so impressed with all the guys, the skill level. Looking at the defensemen, they're very smart hockey players. They can play an offensive game, a defensive game. The forwards, I feel like they've been around for a while, these guys. They have a lot of experience in big tournaments. It's going to be a lot of fun to get together with this group and try to do something special."

Video: Lundqvist on election to Team Sweeden for 2016 WCH

Hedman, in particular, is impressed by the quality of Sweden's defense corps.

"Yeah, it looks pretty good, huh?" he said after Lightning practice in Ottawa. "We're obviously very excited about all the talent we have back there. It's pretty stacked, so it's going to be a fight for ice time. At the same time, having this much talent gives the coaching staff options. There's a lot of stuff to look forward to.

"It's going to be a fun tournament, I think, for everyone watching and playing. For us, it's a great way to start the season. We're very excited about it. There's going to be a lot of tough games, but at the same time, that's what you play hockey for, to play in this kind of event. I'm very happy about it and looking forward to it a lot."

Gronborg said the staff of executives and advisers selecting the roster focused on skill, experience and leadership to come up with the 16 players.

Zetterberg, Karlsson, Landeskog and Henrik Sedin are captains for their respective NHL teams. Ekman-Larsson, Kronwall, Backstrom, Steen and Daniel Sedin are alternate captains. Hedman and Stralman have each worn an 'A' at times this season.

Zetterberg was Sweden's initial captain going into the Sochi Olympics. A back injury forced him to withdraw after the first game. Kronwall took over as captain.

"That kind of identifies what kind of team we are," Gronborg said. "I think team smartness and leadership are a couple of things we're very good at. That's what I want to highlight as well. These guys obviously earn the stripes on their teams and leadership is a big part of a winning team."

So is skill, specifically puck possession, which has been a hallmark of Swedish national teams for years. Gronborg said that won't change in Toronto.

"If you look down the roster we have great skating defensemen that can move up the puck, move up the attack and score and create scoring opportunities," Gronborg said. "That has to be one of our strengths. The smartness of our forwards is something that sticks out to me. We have other players that also can help out the team with different skills."

One of those other players could be Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, who was left off the initial 16-player roster despite being fourth among all Swedes, third among all defensemen, and tied for 20th overall with 53 points this season.

Gronborg said the staff wants to see how Klingberg reacts and plays in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"With the year that Klingberg is having right now, I think it's tremendous for his development," Gronborg said. "Now we just need to identify and look a little bit more. We have a little bit left for our way of building the team."

Video: Mar 2: Karlsson set to play for Sweden

Strength of team: Goaltending and puck possession. Lundqvist will give Sweden a chance in every game, but the Swedes should be able to help him by possessing the puck on the other end. They have always been built on skill and smarts, and this roster appears no different.

Weakness of team: Lack of righties. The one area that Sweden might need to address when it names its final seven players is shooting side. Only three of the 14 skaters named to the roster Wednesday are righties.

Biggest surprise: None. Sweden's depth is so strong that every player named to the roster Wednesday is not only deserving, but was expected to be on the final 23-man roster. That they got on in the top 16 is not a surprise.

Biggest omission: Klingberg. The Stars defenseman is one of the top scorers at his position in the NHL and he's also right-handed.

Roster

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers, G
Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks, G
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes, D
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, D
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks, D
Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators, D
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings, D
Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning, D
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals, F
Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins, F
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators, F
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche, F
Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks, F
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks, F
Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues, F
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings, F

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