While Sweden continues to produce some of the best NHL prospects in the world, they have been going through a recent drought in IIHF World Junior Championship competition.
The Swedes have not won a medal of any color since 1996 when they finished second to Canada and earned a silver. In fact, although they have produced superstars like Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin and Nciklas Lidstrom, the Swedes have won only one IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal in the 26-year history of the event. That was back in 1981 when the tournament was held in West Germany.
Fans in Sweden are hungry for gold, but with Canada, Russia, the United States and others all set to ice powerhouse teams in Halifax, they might have to wait even another year.
There are few Swedish players in the Canadian Hockey League. Prospects prefer to play at home until they’re ready for the NHL. Two exceptions are Fredrik Sjostrom, who produced 19 goals and 50 points for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League last season, and Jonas Johansson, who has opted to play this season with the Kamloops Blazers.
Johansson, a Colorado draft pick, scored five goals to lead his team in that category at the 2002 World Under-18 tournament. He received plenty of attention when he scored eight points in a junior game last season.
Alexander Steen, first overall choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the June draft, is expected to captain the Swedish junior team. The son of Thomas Steen, who scored 264 NHL goals for the Winnipeg Jets, has fine offensive skills but also takes care of his defensive responsibilities.
Joakim Lindstrom, drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2002, has lots of speed and scoring ability.
Daniel Fernholm, a 6-5, 220-pound defenseman, was drafted by Pittsburgh in June. He missed half of last season with injuries, but is ready to make an impact this year.
There’s a chance that Robert Nilsson, the son of former NHL star Kent Nilsson, will become Sweden's second player ever to go 1st overall in the NHL Entry Draft. He is eligible for the 2003 draft and is expected to be drafted very high.
With both goalies from 2002 now ineligible, Sweden likely will turn to Joakim Lundstrom, a graduate of its Under-18 junior team, in net.
The Swedes should be solid on the right side, with three returning wingers, Andreas Jamtin, Yared Hagos and Gustave Grasberg. Their NHL rights are owned by the Detroit Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Nashville, respectively.
Peo Larsson, who helped develop Detroit Red Wings prospect Henrik Zetterberg with the Timra club, takes over the Head Coaching job from Bo Lennartsson.