KHL.ru presents a series of previews devoted to the teams competing for hockey gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. The Games get underway on Friday, the 9th of February, and the hockey tournament runs from the 14th to the 25th. Today, we spoke to Team Sweden head coach Rikard Gronborg about his team and their expectations for the forthcoming event.
The Swedes face Norway, Germany and Finland in the group stage, and their Olympic roster includes 19 players with KHL experience and no fewer than 12 who are currently playing the League.
“We have really solid goalies, and all of them have a wealth of experience. Hellberg had a great year for Kunlun Red Star. Fasth and Enroth are seasoned goalies, both with experience of winning. Fasth was great for us last year at the World Championships, while Enroth was our main goalie at the worlds back in 2013. It will be a great contest to see which has the upper hand and gets the starting role. We considered Lars Johansson of CSKA, as he is a very good goaltender, and we also looked Henrik Karlsson of Barys,but we decided to stick with these three guys,” - said Gronborg.
Staffan Kronwall (Lokomotiv), Mikael Wikstrand (Farjestads BK), Patrik Hersley (SKA), Johan Fransson (Genève-Servette HC), Simon Bertilsson (Brynas IF), Rasmus Dahlin (Frolunda HC), Erik Gustafsson (Neftekhimik), Jonas Ahnelov (Avangard)
“Staffan has so much experience. He’s a captain in his KHL team and he's a unique player. He is the kind of guy who is invaluable in the locker room. Patrik Hersley will play a part in our offense, as he has one of the best shots in the KHL and probably of anyone at this Olympics. Gustafsson and Ahnelov are mature players, and will mostly play a defensive role. We also took some younger guys like Rasmus Dahlin, who’s just 17 years old, but he will play at the Olympics.”
Joakim Lindstrom (Skelleftea AIK), Fredrik Pettersson (ZSC Lions), Par Lindholm (Skelleftea AIK), Dennis Everberg (Neftekhimik), Patrik Zackrisson (Sibir), Joel Lundqvist (Frolunda HC), Alexander Bergstrom (Sibir), Viktor Stalberg (EV Zug), Dick Axelsson (Farjestads BK), John Norman (Jokerit), Oscar Moller (Skelleftea AIK), Carl Klingberg (EV Zug), Anton Lander (Ak Bars), Linus Omark (Salavat Yulaev)
“Alexander Bergstrom has one of the most interesting stories of any in this team. He played in second-tier leagues for so many years, but last year he had his breakthrough season. He started to play for the national team and then received an offer to play in the KHL. He’s strong on the puck and he loves to battle. Because of the chemistry between the pair, we also called up Zackrisson. Together they have been on top form over the past few months and helped their team to fight for a playoff place.
Dennis Everberg could not secure a suitable role in the system at Avangard, and being traded to Neftekhimik helped him to find his game. He’s a big help to us. Norman is an energetic player, who is great at penalty-killing. Anton Lander has a lot of NHL experience, and he’s a leader. We worked with him before in the juniors. It took some time for him to adjust in Kazan, but now he’s a top player there.
Linus Omark is a very interesting player. Obviously, he's superstar in Sweden, and I guess also in the KHL. He’s a great guy, who loves to make plays, work, steal the puck, finish, score... He will be a key player in our team. We talked with Andre Pettersson from Avangard, but we decided to stick with the guys we have.”
At the previous Olympics, Team Sweden won silver, and their most recent gold came in the 2006. “We will be competing against the best teams, but we are expected to win a medal. The Russians should be the favorites; their roster includes guys who have been top players in the NHL. But it’s a short tournament and anything can happen.”