It is all but guaranteed that the Sochi men’s hockey tournament will signal at least a moderate changing of the guard as far as Team Sweden is concerned.
Sure a few reliables remain, with as locked up a starting goaltender position and first line as any nation, but after a gold on home soil in the 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championship, head coach Par Marts likely will not hesitate to throw in youth and domestic talent to augment the Nordic country’s NHL stars.
Here is a breakdown of Team Sweden’s roster by position.
Ottawa Senators fans aside, Swedish fans should be excited at the prospects of Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg forming a regular unit (or at least being teammates) in Detroit, as that ready-made chemistry could be a tantalizing second option behind Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
The Sedins themselves proved at long last that they can be winners when their presence at the worlds was the catalyst that spurred Tre Kronor to that crown; and they developed some quality rapport with new Boston Bruins right winger Loui Eriksson in the process.
Gabriel Landeskog was named the youngest captain in the history of the NHL by the Colorado Avalanche last off-season and though he has some offensive ability, a checking/grinding role would suit him perfectly.
St. Louis Blues forwards Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund could also come together as a handy two-way, ready-made pair, along with the ever-improving Blackhawk Marcus Kruger.
Where super play-maker Nicklas Backstrom fits in all of it will be intriguing to see as well.
For the first time since the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the Swedes will have to make do without the retired Nicklas Lidstrom in a best-on-best tournament.
Erik Karlsson is the undisputed top dog and although Alexander Edler will miss the first two games of the tournament, his emergence as one of the NHL’s top two-way defenders means that it is highly likely the Vancouver Canuck will be there anyway.
This group is extremely deep after that as Lidstrom’s old partner, Niklas Kronwall, will have to play himself off the team to not make it. He will likely be joined by surging youngsters Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Victor Hedman.
There are so many other quality options on the list, including Johnny Oduya, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Calder Trophy candidate Jonas Brodin, that picking only seven (or eight) before seeing the NHL season is extremely difficult.
Whichever way Tre Kronor goes, there will be a fantastic mix of puck movement, mobility and defensive acumen able to match up against any nation.
As difficult to pick as the defenceman are, there is zero question that Henrik Lundqvist will start in net (barring something unforeseen like injury or the apocalypse).
Viktor Fasth took big steps forward for the Anaheim Ducks last season and appears a good bet for the backup spot, though Jhonas Enroth and Robin Lehner have both also paid their dues and looked good in the blue and gold.