We'll start things off with Sweden. This is supposed to be one of the stronger teams the Swedes have filled in recent years, and they'll definitely be looking for a medal in this year's tournament.
In their first exhibition game, Sweden knocked off Norway 5-1. They started off a little shaky, but as the game progressed, their passing really improved and they started moving the puck around beautifully. In their second exhibition game, they lost to the US 4-3 in a game where they struggled to finish off their chances. Their style of play is not necessarily what you'd expect from a Sweden. They've got the typical skating and puck-moving, but they're also very responsible defensively and like to play along the walls. They'll rely heavily on their top line of Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, Jacob Josefson, and Carl Klingberg for offense, as well as offense from the blueline.
Key Players to Watch: #20 F Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, #7 D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, #26 F Jacob Josefson, #24 D Tim Erixon
After the jump, we'll look at some of the individual players on the Swedish team.
(Note: All player rankings in parenthesis are from the NHL Central Scouting Mid-term rankings for European skaters, unless otherwise noted)
They should rely on Robin Lehner, who was the top rated European goalie prospect in the Central Scouting Mid-Term rankings. Back-up Johan Gustafsson started against Norway and was shaky. Lehner played against the US and was solid, but not exceptional. He's a huge goalie that takes up a lot of the net, but all that size causes him to lack quickness, which gets him into trouble when he gets caught out of position.
Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi(2)-MSP was the second ranked European prospect behind some guy named Hedman, and has been talked about as a potential top 10, or even top 5 pick. The kid is like a Cadillac and he rarely took things out of the second gear against Norway--he was basically on Sweden's fourth line and kept his shifts short--but when he did, he was very impressive. He's one of the fastest, most effortless skaters I've ever seen. There weren't a lot of opportunities to show off his offensive ability because his ice time was kept down, but he showed some nice, quick hands around the net.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson(8)-He's made a huge move up a lot of people's draft boards over the past couple months, and it's easy to see why. He's a great skater, and got a ridiculous amount of offensive talent. I wasn't overly impressed defensively, where he gave up three odd-man rushes against the US, but he's got so much potential that I could see him going in the top 10 of the draft.
Anton Lander(13)-I think he's captained Sweden at some international events, and that leadership shows on the ice. He was really smart and responsible on both ends of the ice. He's maybe not offensively as flashy, but makes a lot of solid plays in the offensive end, and is rock solid defensively. He could be a steal among the European players.
Jacob Josefson(3)-He missed the first exhibition due to a shoulder injury. I'm not sure if he's 100%, but he looked fine in the second game. He's a silky smooth player with tremendously quick hands. Sweden loves to use him down low on the right side of the net where he can create offensive opportunities with his shifty stickhandling.
Tim Erixon(5)-He's got kind of a weird skating style. He's very hunched over, but it seems to work for him. He's a very offensive-minded player that loves to jump up into the play and is never afraid to fire the puck from the point. For an offensive defenseman, I wasn't overly impressed with his puck-handling ability.
Adam Larsson(2011 eligible)-With the North American 2011 draft class looking weak, expect to hear a lot more about this kid in the next year or two. He's already played some in Sweden's top pro league. He's very talented, but playing against this older competition, you can see that needs a litlte more strength and maturity. But once he develops a little more, he should near the top of the 2011 draft.
Patrick Cehlin(21)-I was really impressed with the way he played. He's short, but has a very low center of gravity and is really strong. He protects the puck really well and uses his quickness really well. I don't know how that would translate to the pro level, but he seems like a tough player to play against.
Carl Klingberg(7)-He was paired with MSP and also didn't see a lot of ice time against Norway. He's got good size, but didn't do a lot in the first exhibition game.
Simon Bertisson(12)-A pretty solid defender that likes to step up and throw the big hit against on-rushing opponents.
Martin Karlsson(22)-Sees the ice pretty well and can really pass the puck. Made one ridiculous pass that really impressed some of the scouts in attendance against Norway.