GROUP A: SWEDEN
2012 finish: Gold medal, won 1-0 in overtime over Russia in final
2012 round-robin record: 2-2-0-0, 26 GF/11 GA
Yahoo! Canada Sports has asked North American-based players, some of whom are playing in the world junior championship, to break down their national teams.
Sweden is at a point where it expects to medal even if circumstances deny them their top players. That certitude did not come on with last January's gold-medal triumph in Calgary, since there was a burgeoning belief going into the tournament that it might be their time.
Missing bound-to-Binghamton Mika Zibanejad and woulda-been defensive pillars Jonas Brodin and Oscar Klefbom hurts, but the defending IIHF world U20 champions still have what it takes to be a tough out in Ufa, Russia. Sweden has medalled at the WJC in 4-of-5 seasons (and came within minutes of playing for gold in Buffalo in 2011). The so-called Swedish super model that keeps stamping out top draft prospects — hello there, Elias Lindholm — also keeps championship coach Roger Ronnberg with the U20 team. Ronnberg's steady hand should be a guide for a team which might need to overachieve.
"I think the Sweden team should always have expectations to win," says Florida Panthers prospect Rasmus Bengtsson, the Muskegon Lumberjacks defenceman who is one of the four 19-year-old rearguards on Ronnberg's roster. "That should be the culture of the organization, to win every game and championship we can, to go for the gold.
"Having Roger, I think that's important," says Bengtsson, who will likely be a minutes-muncher on the blueline along with Anaheim Ducks No. 6 overall pick Hampus Lindholm. "He's done a really good job getting the team to work together in every tournament."Read More »from World junior championship: Sweden soldiers on without 3 kingmakers