Norway has recently published its list of 25 players for the PyeongChang Winter Games, only eight of them representing the Norwegian Elite League. This is both good and bad for the domestic league: from one hand, it means that Norway players are competitive and requested on the international market, but on the other end if the Norwegian league would manage to attract more of the top-end Norwegian guys, the level of the inner championship may be higher. In any case, the Olympics will be a good test for the Norwegian movement, as the team will have to face a tough challenge in the Group C in form of Team Sweden and Team Finland.
The Norwegians will be at their third straight participation, a good record, although they did end up last in 2014. Team Norway has a total NHL experience of only 145 games, due to two of their top players, Jonas Holos and Patrick Thoresen. Interestingly enough, both players also account for most of the country’s KHL experience.
THW presents its preview of the 2018 Norway roster looking to improve 2014 results in PyeongChang:
Lars Haugen (Farjestad); Henrik Haukeland, (Timra IK); Henrik Holm, (Stavanger Oilers).
For the series: it’s not great, but it could be worse. The Norwegian will bring to South Korea two reliable and experienced goalies in Lars Haugen and Henrik Haukeland. Both of them aren’t elite goalies but may have what it takes to steal a game against the likes of Team Germany. Haugen spent four years in the KHL before moving to the SHL, while Haukeland is now having a career year in the Swedish second league. The former is now the favorite to take the number one spot, considering his experience and the team’s recent history. Henrik Holm will be in as a third goalie.
Aleksander Bonsaksen (Iserlohn), Stefan Espeland (Klagenfurt), Jonas Holøs (Fribourg), Johannes Johannesen (Stavanger), Erlend Lesund (Mora), Mattias Nørstebø (Frölunda), Daniel Sørvik (Litvinov), Henrik Ødegaard (Frisk Asker).
An all-around problem of Team Norway is the lack of depth. Jonas Holos, Erlend Lesund, and Mattias Norstebo are good players in good leagues, but that’s pretty much all they have. A former Colorado Avalanche prospect, Jonas Holos has played only one season in North America before getting back to Europe to play in Sweden. After two seasons with the Vaxjo Lakers, Holos played two seasons in the KHL with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, before getting again back to Sweden. Last summer he finally signed with Fribourg Gotteron of the Swiss NLA, where is serving as an alternate captain.
Mattias Norstebo has never played in North America, but in spite of being still young at his 22 years, he is a regular on Team Norway for several seasons at the WC level. He is under contract with Frolunda for a further year, but he may keep on climbing the ranks up to have a try in the AHL after his deal is over. Alexander Bonsaksen will also have a big role in the team due to his experience. The Iserlohn Roosters defenseman is at his third Olympic Games .The rest of the defensive corp is questionable, but it pretty much reflects what Norway can put into action in South Korea.
Anders Bastiansen (Frisk Asker), Kristian Forsberg (Stavanger), Ludvig Hoff (University of North Dakota), Tomm Kristiansen (Sparta), Ken André Olimb (Linköping), Mathis Olimb (Linköping), Mats Rosseli Olsen (Frölunda), Aleksander Reichenberg (Sparta Prague), Niklas Roest (Sparta), Martin Røymark (Modo), Eirik Salsten (Stavanger), Patrick Thoresen (SKA St. Petersburg), Steffen Thoresen (Storhamar), Mathias Trettenes (Krefeld).
If you take out two players like Andreas Martinsen and Mats Zuccarello from a team like Canada or Russia, they still have a lot of depth to cover the loss, but for a team like Norway, it’s a tragedy. It would have been great for the Norwegians to have them both for the Olympics, but they will not as they are playing overseas. That being said, hardly their presence would have changed anything in the big picture.
Offensive depth for this team is a huge question mark. In Sochi, with Zuccarello (but without Martinsen) they managed to score only three times, therefore they will hardly create more havoc. The best forward of the team will naturally be Patrick Thoresen. The SKA St. Petersburg forward is getting old and isn’t as explosive as he used to be, but is still an almost PPG player in the KHL having scored eleven points in thirteen games after moving back to SKA last November from his hometown team Storhamar Dragons. It will be the third Olympics for the former Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers player.
Other important players will be Mathis Olimb, who played two seasons in North America, one in the OHL and one in the AHL, and his brother Ken Andre, both playing for Linkoping in the Swedish SHL. Another player on the rise is Alexander Reichenberg, who moved from Norway to the Czech Republic this summer, but isn’t having the strongest season stats-wise with Sparta Prague having scored only six goals and 14 points in 39 games.
A surprise is the lack of Sondre Olsen from the roster. The former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick is having a great season with Medvescak Zagreb in the Austrian EBEL, but Norway has only declared 24 players so far, so maybe he’ll get in later.
The Bottom Line
It will be a tough tournament for Team Norway. They were probably a bit lucky to get to the tournament and in South Korea they will probably try to play as hard as possible to avoid being the last team in the standings. However, the Olympics are a short tournament and they may have a chance to defeat Team Germany in the Group C. Hardly they will have the same chance against Team Sweden and Team Finland.
Team Norway will start the tournament on February 15 against Team Sweden, then will face Team Finland the next day. After a one-day pause, Team Norway will battle Team Germany on February 18.