Instead, GM Martin Lundby has worked with Garpenlov to draw up a roster from the Swedish Hockey League, the KHL and Switzerland’s National League. With a handful of players returning from PyeongChang – where Swedish lost in the quarter-final to Germany – there is experience on this team – with 31-year-old centre Marcus Kruger boasting a wealth of know-how from the NHL, World Championship, Olympics and World Cup of Hockey.
However, Sweden also has many players heading for their first international tournament, raising questions about what to expect from the Tre Kronor in Beijing.
Chinese experience and a KHL leaderThe goaltending stable is drawn entirely from the KHL. Magnus Hellberg, the unused third goalie in PyeongChang, is back on the roster for his second Games. The 30-year-old, currently with HK Sochi, is one of only a few players with experience of hockey in China: in the 2017/18 season, he was an absolute workhorse for Kunlun Red Star, playing 51 regular-season games for the KHL’s Chinese franchise. He was also part of Sweden’s World Championship winners that year.
Alongside Hellberg, two other KHLers will stake their claims for game time. Adam Reideborn was the first choice at last season’s World Championship, where he stopped 94.6% of shots for a GAA of 1.4 despite the Tre Kronor’s struggles in Riga. He’s with CSKA Moscow this season but has struggled to establish himself alongside Ivan Fedotov. Reideborn took over from Lars Johansson at CSKA, but the 34-year-old looks to be the man in form. He currently leads the KHL for GAA (1.63), saves (93.2%) and shut-outs (9) from his 34 games for SKA.
New-look defenceOn defence, Sweden is missing many of its key performers from PyeongChang. Staffan Kromwall and Patrik Hersley have retired, while Mikael Wikstrand’s star has faded following a good Olympic campaign in Korea and a career-best season with Ak Bars Kazan in 2019/20. Rasmus Dahlin, whose Olympic debut last time was much-discussed, is unavailable due to the NHL’s absence.
That leaves Erik Gustafsson as the only returnee on the blue line. Since 2018, the former Philadelphia Flyer has not featured in international hockey. However, he’s been a solid part of Lulea’s D-core in the SHL, captaining that team for the last four seasons, and after wearing the ‘A’ in PyeongChang he’ll be expected to offer leadership in this group.
Henrik Tommernes is another man more than capable of leading from the front. He captained the Swedes at the last World Championship and led the Tre Kronor in scoring in Riga with 5 (2+3) points from seven games. Somewhat surprisingly, that was the 31-year-old’s first taste of international tournament play in a career that has brought him two Champions Hockey Leagues and one Swedish championship. Jonathan Pudas, 28, is another returnee from the World Championship, boosted by a highly productive season with Skelleftea where his 35 points in 32 games have him well on course for a best-ever campaign in the SHL, where he is currently the leading Swedish scorer and fourth overall.
Among the new faces, Linus Hultstrom catches the eye. His Metallurg Magnitogorsk team is riding high in the KHL standings, and Hultstrom’s 28-point return places him seventh in the league among defencemen. Two more KHLers, SKA’s Oscar Fantenberg and Dynamo Minsk’s Lukas Bengtsson, also make the team. The former currently has a ‘stay-at-home’ role for his club, while 27-year-old Bengtsson’s speed makes him an asset on the rush.
The defensive line-up is completed by Frolunda’s Christian Folin, 30, a veteran of 244 NHL games with Minnesota, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Montreal, plus Emil Djuse of Rapperswil-Jona Lakers. Both are poised for their senior international tournament debuts.
Kruger adds vital experienceOne of Sweden’s big challenges up front this time around will be replacing the creativity of Linus Omark. In Korea, his seven helpers led the team in scoring but that was the last international activity for the 34-year-old, who continues to score freely with Lulea. However, Garpenlov can call on much-titled Marcus Kruger, who last played Olympic hockey in 2014. The 31-year-old centre earned a silver medal for his efforts in Sochi and can also boast Stanley Cups from 2013 and 2015, plus World Championship gold in 2017. He ended a 524-game NHL career when he left the Blackhawks in 2019 to return to Europe, but Kruger has remained an important figure with Switzerland’s ZSC Lions Zurich, where he wears the ‘A’. His experience will be crucial in this tournament.
Kruger is not the only player with Olympic experience. Sweden also has three returnees from 2018 among its forwards. Anton Lander led the team in goals in PyeongChang. The 30-year-old centre enjoyed a big season in 2018, following his Olympic debut with a Gagarin Cup triumph at Ak Bars Kazan. He also played well at the 2019 World Championship in Slovakia. His international experience, coupled with a solid season in Switzerland with EV Zug, earns him a second Olympic call-up here.
Dennis Everberg, currently with Rogle, was the only player to feature in both of Sweden’s back-to-back World Championship rosters of 2017 and 2018. He also went to PyeongChang, where he had a goal and an assist in four games but has not been called up to another international tournament since then. Carl Klingberg is another Olympic returnee, after making one appearance at the 2018 Games. Like Lander, he currently plays his club hockey with Zug.
CSKA Moscow provides two forwards for Garpenlov’s team. Lucas Wallmark moved to the KHL in the summer after five seasons in the NHL. He took some time to adapt to life in Russia, but has picked up his scoring in recent months and confirmed a one-year contract extension with the Army Men last week. Joakim Nordstrom made a similar journey, arriving in Moscow from Calgary. He suffered an injury just a couple of weeks into his CSKA career, but the 29-year-old, a 2017 World Champion, is back to full fitness now.
Although the Tre Kronor largely went with experience when naming this roster, there is room for one rising star. Pontus Holmberg, 22, signed an entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs last summer before returning to Vaxjo Lakers on loan. There, he’s enjoying the most productive season of his career to date, with 28 (10+18) points from 33 games. That represents a build from a hugely successful play-off last season, where he compiled 14 (7+7) points in 14 games to help the Lakers win the Swedish championship. Today’s Olympic call continues his progress in the international arena after making his World Championship debut last season.
Max Friberg, a World Junior champion in 2012, was another World Championship rookie last term and the 29-year-old Frolunda winger returns on this team.
Jacob de la Rose brings extensive NHL experience after seven seasons with Montreal, Detroit and St Louis. The 26-year-old is not naturally prolific but plays a rock-solid two-way game.
Sweden also has several players going into their first international tournament. Farjestad captain Linus Johansson, 29, and 31-year-old Daniel Brodin, currently with Fribourg-Gotteron, are perhaps the most experienced of these. Both have featured in Euro Hockey Tour action in the past. Meanwhile 27-year-old former Detroit winger Mathias Brome has a couple dozen NHL appearances under his belt. Oskarhamn’s Fredrik Olofsson, 25, completes the party.
Magnus Hellberg, HK Sochi (RUS)
Lars Johansson, SKA St Petersburg (RUS)
Adam Reideborn, CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Lukas Bengtsson, Dynamo Minsk (BLR)
Emil Djuse, SC Rapperswil-Jona Lakers (SUI)
Oscar Fantenberg, SKA St Petersburg (RUS)
Christian Folin, Frolunda Gothenburg
Erik Gustafsson, Lulea HF
Linus Hultstrom, Metallurg Magnitogorsk (RUS)
Jonathan Pudas, Skelleftea AIK
Henrik Tommernes, Geneve-Servette HC (SUI)
Daniel Brodin, HC Fribourg-Gotteron (SUI)
Mathias Brome, HC Davos (SUI)
Jacob de la Rose, Farjestad Karlstad
Dennis Everberg, Rogle Angelholm
Max Friberg, Frolunda Gothenburg
Pontus Holmberg, Vaxjo Lakers
Linus Johansson, Farjestad Karlstad
Carl Klingberg, EV Zug (SUI)
Marcus Kruger, ZSC Lions Zurich (SUI)
Anton Lander, EV Zug (SUI)
Joakim Nordstrom, CSKA Moscow (RUS)
Fredrik Olofsson, IK Oskarshamn
Gustav Rydahl, Farjestad Karlstad
Lucas Wallmark, CSKA Moscow (RUS)