The Swedes have an exciting team coming into the IIHF Under-18 World Championship this year. The tournament will be held in Frisco, Texas, from April 26 – May 6 and will showcase top talent from around the world. Sweden is in Group A with Belarus, Canada, Latvia, and Switzerland, and they will open up the tournament on the 26th against Belarus.
Sweden won gold at the 2019 U-18 World Championships, which saw a compelling roster that was consistent in all categories and loaded with future NHL talent. They had Hugo Alnefelt, Jesper Wallstedt, Tobias Bjornfot, Philip Broberg, Victor Soderstrom, Alexander Holtz, Simon Holmstrom and Lucas Raymond, to name a few. With the tournament just under two weeks away, let’s break down some of the key individuals on the roster.
During the 2019 Under-18 World Championships, the Swedes had an elite triple-threat goaltending tandem that consisted of Alnefelt, Calle Clang, and Jesper Wallstedt. Things this year are a bit different as they have just two goalies brought in. My pick for the starting goaltender is 17-year-old Carl Lindbom, while Viggo Andren will be backing him up. Lindbom is coming off a hot WHC-U17 tournament in 2019-20, and at one point, he made 50 saves against Team Canada Red to help secure his country the 4-2 win. He finished the tournament with a 4.71 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage average in just four games played and helped secure a bronze medal. Currently, he is with Djugardens IF in the SHL, where he has yet to play a game this season for them but has bounced around between the J18 and J20 leagues, establishing himself as a starting goalie.
There are quite a few players to watch on the Swedish blue line this tournament. With 2021 top prospect Simon Edvinsson likely anchoring the defense core, expect the unexpected when it comes to him. Standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 200 pounds doesn’t stop him from being one of the most mobile defensemen in the tournament. He is a threat in the offensive zone and is very technical in his own end, which has helped him draw comparisons to Tampa Bay Lightning phenom Victor Hedman. Currently, he is playing for Frolunda HC in the SHL, where he has one assist in ten games played but will be a crucial part of Sweden’s defense.
Another guy on the back-end to watch is Anton Olsson, he is playing for the Malmo Redhawks in the SHL, and in 39 games, he has four assists. Known as a two-way defenseman, he carries a bag of skills that can be utilized in critical situations, and you will find him on lines such as the penalty-kill and the power play. He is draft eligible for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and will likely be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
While scouts are predominately looking at talent for this year’s upcoming draft, there will be a handful who will have their eyes set on future drafts. One name who could be a potential top-five pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft is 16-year-old Skelleftea native Elias Salomonsson. He had four goals and 15 points in 14 games with Skelleftea AIK in the J20 League and has even found himself in the SHL, where he has suited up for three games. A right-shot defender, described as a flawless puck mover and passer, it will be hard for scouts not to drool over his abilities.
A few more names on the blue line to keep your eyes on are Simon Forsmark and Ludvig Jansson. Forsmark is an offensive defenseman who is well known to the Swedish National program, and he most recently won gold at the WHC-17 tournament in 2019-20. Jansson is a prospect for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft and possesses an offensive upside like his fellow defense partners. He bounced around between the J20 League and the HockeyAllsvenskan League, where he most recently has played for Sodertalje, putting up just two points in 20 games.
Nine forwards from the 2018-19 gold medal team went on to be drafted in the last two NHL drafts, including Lucas Raymond, who went fourth-overall to the Detroit Red Wings in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. The Swedes’ have developed a great national program that only seems to be continuously pumping out elite NHL talent, once again, they have a well-rounded forward group who will be very fast and flashy.
Be on the lookout for Fabian Lysell, as he is one of the top-rated Swedish forward’s going into this year’s NHL Entry Draft and will likely be a top 10 pick behind fellow Swede William Eklund. He suited up for 26 games with Lulea HF in the SHL, where he had two goals and one assist. Don’t let that deceive you though, Lysell is a goal scorer and a highly skilled right-winger who uses his speed and technical skills to get on the score sheet. I would expect he is a first or second-line winger on this roster.
Isak Rosen is another forward who could find himself putting on an NHL jersey in the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. You could almost say Rosen is like a hawk out there with exceptional vision and explosive speed, as he finds himself in all ends of the arena. A natural playmaker with a wicked shot, he played 12 games in the J20 League with Leskands IF, scoring 12 points (seven goals, five assists) before being called up to the SHL. The 17-year-old will be a major part of Team Sweden in the upcoming U-18 tournament, so I expect his name to be on the score-sheet often.
Another name to keep an eye on is William Stromgren. The 6-foot-3 left-winger is a powerhouse on the ice, as he uses his body to get by defenders and is a shoot-first player. A product of Modo Hockey, a legendary Swedish hockey organization that has produced talents like Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, and the Sedin twins, Stromgren has a phenomenal program that surrounds him. He played for Modo in the HockeyAllsvenskan League, where he put up (three goals, six assists) in 27 games. Most recently, he put up 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 11 games with Ornskoldsvik in the HockeyEttan League. Stromgren will fill a top-six role for the Swedes, and I would expect him to even be on their top power-play unit.
A few honorable mentions to watch out for are Liam Dower-Nilsson, Simon Robertsson, Victor Stjenborg, and Noah Ostlund. When looking at the roster’s club stats, Dower-Nilsson has had himself a good year in the J20 League, where he put home 17 points in 16 games. Arguably the team’s top center, he will find himself playing a critical role down the middle.
The Swedes once again have a great team coming into the U18 tournament, and I expect them to battle hard and try to capture back-to-back gold medals. With several players to watch on Team Sweden, they will be one of the more exciting teams to pay attention to throughout the tournament. They will open up the tournament against Belarus, but a true test will come when they play Team Canada.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been apart of my life. Now, I am looking to get into the sports media world and make it a career. I will be covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers.