Is this the year for Sweden?

Coach Mårts selects a team that has it all – on paper

30.11.2009
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Goalkeeper Jacob Markström will be one of the returnees in the Swedish U20 national team. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

All-Star goaltender Jacob Markström and speedy forward Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson will be two of eight Swedish returnees at the 2010 IIHF World U20 Championship in Canada. Can Sweden finally win gold after 29 years?

It was a much anticipated announcement that head coach Pär Mårts made live on Swedish television on Monday evening. The World U20s have grown enormously in popularity in the last few years in Sweden where TV audiences of one million tune in when the ‘Young Crowns’ perform.

Of the 21 players, 18 are NHL-drafted with 13 picked at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal this past summer. Goaltender Jacob Markström, who was named Best Goaltender at the 2009 ‘World Juniors’ in Ottawa last year, will backstop the team of eight returnees who were part of the squad that lost last year’s gold medal game against Canada, 5-1.

Defenceman Erik Karlsson is not on the roster, but could possibly be named later as coach Mårts is hoping that the Ottawa Senators will release him for the championship. Karlsson was Team Sweden’s leading blueliner in Ottawa last year and he was named tournament’s Best Defenceman as well as being selected to the Media All-Star Team. Karlsson has been bumped between Ottawa and their AHL affiliate Binghamton during this season.

The Swedes will have to do without defenceman Victor Hedman, who was selected second overall by Tampa Bay last summer. Hedman is playing regularly with the Lightning and the club has informed the Swedish management that the 18-year-old will not be released.

Mårts has left two spots open. If Karlsson is not available, Simon Bertilsson (Brynäs) will be named to the team.

Seventeen players perform regularly in the Swedish top pro league. Winger Magnus Pääjärvi-Svensson has seven goals and nine assists in 25 games for Timrå while centre Marcus Krüger has 8+14 in 14 games for Djurgården.

On defence, coach Mårts will rely heavily on the trio from Skellefteå AIK; David Rundblad 19, Tim Erixon 18 and Adam Larsson 17. The latter has been sensational in the Elitserien, scoring three goals and adding eight assists in 25 games with Skellefteå.

Coach Mårts surprised many observers by not naming any of the high-profile Swedish players who currently perform well in the Canadian junior leagues. Among the notable absentees are goaltender Robin Lehner (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), defenceman Alexander Urbom (Brandon, WHL) and forward Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener, OHL).

Sweden has lost two consecutive World U20 gold medal games against Canada and has won the World Junior title only once, in 1981.

Swedish U20 national team

Goalkeepers: Anders Nilsson (Luleå HF), Jacob Markström (Brynäs Gävle).

Defenceman: Lukas Kilström (Södertälje SK), Oliver Ekman Larsson (Leksands IF), Adam Larsson (Skellefteå AIK), David Rundblad (Skellefteå AIK), Tim Erixon (Skellefteå AIK), Mattias Ekholm (Mora IK). Not nominated yet: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa), Simon Bertilsson (Brynäs).

Forwards: Mattias Tedenby (HV 71 Jönköping), Jacob Josefson (Djurgården Stockholm), Marcus Johansson (Färjestad Karlstad), Dennis Rasmussen (VIK Västerås), Jakob Silfverberg (Brynäs Gävle), Anton Lander (Timrå IK), Carl Klingberg (Frölunda Gothenburg), Anton Rödin (Brynäs Gävle), Andre Petersson (HV 71 Jönköping), Magnus Pääjärvi Svensson (Timrå IK), Marcus Krüger (Djurgården Stockholm), Daniel Brodin (Djurgården Stockholm), Martin Lundberg (Skellefteå AIK).

Head coach: Pär Mårts. Assistant coach: Peter Sundström.

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