Hoping for goodwill – and gold

Swedish juniors keen to break 30-year U20 jinx

03.12.2010
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Credit Union Centre Saskatoon Saskatchewan Canada

Sweden's Oliver Ekman-Larsson battles with a U.S. player in last year's semi-final. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images

STOCKHOLM – Coach Roger Rönnberg has announced his 30-man roster for the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship in the Buffalo and Niagara, USA. Now he also hopes for some goodwill from some NHL clubs.

Sweden has been the prime European challenger to the North American domination for the last three years when the “Junior Crowns” have finished 2-2-3 in Pardubice, Ottawa and Saskatoon.

Despite putting some great talent on the ice, Sweden has not been able to defeat Canada or the United States in key games. This means that the country is still looking for its first World U20 gold since 1981. Amazing really as the senior team during the same period has won two Olympic gold medals and five World Championship trophies, but the country hasn’t won any junior titles.

Sweden will again have an excellent team despite that – just like Canada – it has become a victim of its own proficiency. Some of the best Swedish 18- and 19-year-olds are already playing in the NHL.

But while the Edmonton Oilers have declared that there is no way that they would release Magnus Pääjärvi (believe it or not, he is still eligible despite having already played in three U20s), coach Roger Rönnberg hopes for a more benevolent approach from Phoenix regarding defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and from Ottawa where he has goaltender Robin Lehner.

While Lehner is a “nice-to-have”, Ekman-Larsson, who has played 15 games with the Coyotes this season, could be a difference between silver and gold.

“It would a great boost to get Oliver,” said Rönnberg who released his 30-man training camp roster live of Swedish state television on Thursday. “He has played in the men’s World Championship last spring and he is one of the best players born 1991 in the world. But even if we don’t get him, we have a strong roster.”

Rönnberg refers to 18-year-old Adam Larsson (from Skellefteå) who is expected to be selected among the top five players in next year’s NHL Entry Draft and who is already in his second season as a pro in Sweden’s top league.

As usual when it comes to Sweden, they want to rely on players who develop at home rather than select from the Canadian Hockey League. Rönnberg made an exception forwards Rickard Rackell (Plymouth, OHL) and of course for the super-talented Gabriel Landeskog, who almost scores at will while captaining the Kitchener Rangers.

Training camp will held in Väsby (north of Stockholm) on December 13-17 and the cut roster (20+3) will travel to North America on the 18th.

CAMP ROSTER

Goalkeepers:
Jonatan Bjurö, Malmö
Johan Gustafsson, Västerås
Fredrik Pettersson Wentzel, Almtuna
Robin Lehner, Binghamton (AHL)

Defencemen:
Adam Almqvist, HV71
Nils Andersson, Växjö
Simon Bertilsson, Brynäs
Jonas Brodin, Färjestad
Klas Dahlbeck, Linköping
Tim Erixon, Skellefteå
John Klingberg, Boràs (Frölunda)
Adam Larsson, Skellefteå
Patrik Nemeth, AIK
Fredrik Styrman, Luleå
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, San Antonio (AHL)

Forwards:
Patrick Cehlin, Djurgården
Dennis Everberg, Rögle
Jesper Fasth, HV71
Max Friberg, Skövde
Calle Järnkrok, Brynäs
Carl Klingberg, Frölunda
Anton Lander, Timrå
Johan Larsson, Brynäs
Oscar Lindberg, Skellefteå
John Norman, Djurgården
Rickard Rakell, Plymouth (OHL)
Ludvig Rensfeldt, Brynäs
Johan Sundström, Frölunda
Erik Thorell, Sundsvall (Färjestad)
William Wallén, Borås (Frölunda)
Sebastian Wännström, Brynäs
Mika Zibanejad, Djurgården
Gabriel Landeskog, Kitchener (OHL)


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