2022 Olympic Men’s Hockey Team Sweden Preview

The 2022 Winter Olympics are just days away, and the entire hockey world was forced to adapt on the fly after it was announced in late December that NHL players would not participate following the rise of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. As such, Team Sweden’s road to its first medal since the 2014 Sochi Olympics got a bit more complex, but no more than any other country dependent on NHL players to fill out their roster.

Things got a bit more complex for the Swedes on Monday when it was announced that two defensemen who were expected to play in the games, Emil Djuse and Erik Gustafsson, will no longer participate due to positive COVID-19 results.

2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 Sweden
2022 Olympics Beijing 2022 Sweden (The Hockey Writers)

Fortunately for the club, two defensemen currently playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Thoedor Lennstrom and Philip Holm, have been added to the roster to fill the gaps.

Related: 2022 Guide to the Men’s Olympic Tournament

The roster’s officially set, so let’s dive in and look at specifically what fans can expect from Team Sweden.

Sweden Primed to Build On Olympic Success

Sweden has always been a force in international competition, and has experienced a wide range of success in the Olympic games. The team won gold medals in both 1994 and 2006, and also has three silver medals and four bronze medals to its name. As mentioned above, its last medal was in 2014 when it took silver after losing 3-0 to Team Canada in the Gold Medal Game.

It last took gold in 2006 after a thrilling 3-2 win over Finland in the Turin games, and in its most recent appearance, the 2018 Pyeongchang games, they did not qualify for a medal after taking fifth place.

Nicklas Lidstrom Norris Trophy
Nicklas Lidstrom played for Team Sweden the last time it won an Olympic gold meadal. (Icon SMI)

Of course, few could forget the 1980 Olympic games, the year of Team USA’s famed “Miracle on Ice,” when Team Sweden was actually the bronze medal-winner after losing to the Soviet Union in the final game. Despite losing that game, both the Russians and Swedes leapfrogged Team Finland, because the format at that time was round-robin style, as opposed to tournament-style elimination.

Alas, this year’s team finds itself in a tough situation out of the gate, considering it has lost two players from its planned final roster before the games even started. It wasn’t too much of a stretch for Sweden to fill out its roster, though, as it has plenty of talent playing in top men’s leagues around the world. (we’ll get to that in a bit.)

The Swedes are assigned to Group C, along with Finland, Latvia, and Slovakia.

Fun Facts About Team Sweden & Its Players

  • Two of the last three medals have been gold (1994 and 2006)
  • Each time since 1980 that Sweden hasn’t medaled, it has taken 5th place
  • Mats Sundin was captain of the last team to win the Olympics
  • The Swedes have nine medals in 21 Olympic games
  • They are the only country to win an Olympic and Wold Championship gold in the same year (2006)

Biggest Stars on the World Stage

NHL players are not on the roster, but the team has a rich history in the games. Its 2006 gold medal was a star-studded team, including top-tier talent such as defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, forward Peter Forsberg, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

This year’s team will look quite different, and the Russians by far have a leg up considering the KHL is considered by many to be the second-best men’s league in the world. Though the Swedes boast the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) as another top-training ground for the NHL, there’s no doubt Russia appears to be the team to beat this winter. Even so, there are also a number of former NHLers set to suit up for Team Sweden in the Olympics, and that experience could be critical to any success at the games.

Marcus Kruger will lead Team Sweden in the Olympics. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Veteran forward Marcus Kruger is no stranger to top notch talent, as he has over 500 NHL games to his name in time spent with the Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes from 2011-2019. He amassed 123 points on 38 goals and 85 assists in 520 NHL games, and won the Stanley Cup twice. He’s presently in Switzerland’s National League (NL) with the Zurich SC Lions, where as an alternate captain this season he’s posted 27 points in 43 games.

30-year-old Anton Lander played 215 NHL games from 2011-12 through 2016-17, all with the Edmonton Oilers. The former second-round selection (2009) has also played in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl as an alternate captain, and this season has notched 29 points in 34 games with EV Zug in the NL.

27-year-old Mathias Brome played in 26 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season, and don’t sleep on 26-year-old Jacob De La Rose, another former second-rounder (2013) whose NHL career never panned out as expected. He was last in the league with the St. Louis Blues in 2020-21, and also spent time with the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings. He recorded 38 points in 242 career games.

Mathias Brome Detroit Red Wings
Mathias Brome, pictured here with the Detroit Red Wings, can turn some heads in the Olympic Games this year. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

On defense, Erik Gustafsson notched 23 points in 91 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2010-11 through 2013-14, and has been the captain for Lulea HF in the SHL since the 2018-19 season. This year he has 19 points, including 18 assists, in 32 games. 30-year-old Christian Folin played for the Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Flyers, and Canadiens over the span of 244 games, and as an alternate captain for the SHL’s Frolunda HC, where he has 13 points in 34 games.

Between the pipes, Magnus Hellberg has four games’ worth of NHL experience, but 34-year-old Lars Johansson is expected to start for the Swedes. Currently with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, Johansson has a 1.63 goals-against average (GAA) and .932 save percentage (SV%) in 34 games this season, and has also posted a .958 SV% and 1.00 GAA in two international games with Team Sweden this year.

Where Do Team Sweden’s Players Come From?

In all, Team Sweden boasts 13 players that have NHL experience on its roster, but where are they all now? Here’s the breakdown:

  • 10 players in the KHL
  • 9 players in the SHL
  • 6 players in the NL

Team Sweden’s chances to contend for a medal are right on par with some of the other top-tier clubs in the Olympics, and they have a chance to do some damage if they can find their groove right out of the gate. There’s certainly no “gimme” games, but considering the Swedes dodged any group with Russia, the USA, or Canada, there’s plenty of opportunity to make it to the podium for the first time in eight years.

How it pans out is anyone’s guess, but in the end, Sweden has the talent on its roster to seriously disrupt the Russians’ attempt to repeat as gold medalists. Men’s ice hockey is set to kick off on Feb. 9.

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