World Cup of Hockey Preview: Sweden
Every year Canada is a favorite to win every best on best tournament hockey has to offer.
A very big reason for that is no nation in the world can match the Canadian depth on the blue line.
Sweden defense group boasts three serious Norris trophy candidates in Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That matches nicely against Canada's Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Brent Burns (Duncan Keith withdrew due to injury).
Sweden would be best advised to keep these three thoroughbreds very active at both ends of the ice. If they play up to their potential Sweden should slot in as the tournament's second favorite team to win it all.
The defense is rounded out with capable veterans. Superstar goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be looking for some late-career glory. He has shown a couple holes in his game last season, but the well rested "King" could still be the best in the game this early in the season. He offers the ultimate last line of defense.
Up front the Sedin Twins and Henrik Zetterberg will be handing the torch to a promising next generation.
Nicklas Backstrom is one of the underrated elite players in the world. Sweden severely missed his presence at the last Olympics.
Perhaps by design due to the smaller NHL ice surface, the Swedes are bringing a lot of two way, complete forwards. Few in the world are better at this than Alex Steen and Gabriel Landeskog, while the likes of Jakob Silfverberg, Carl Hagelin and Filip Forsberg provide an unending presence.
The Swedes did leave the likes of Gustav Nyquist, Rickard Rakell, Mikael Backlund and Mika Zibanejad at home. They may offer a little more offensive sizzle but Sweden has fully committed to a team game up front.
When you have Henrik Lundquist in net and three superstar defensemen, it is a very wise game plan to undertake. The Swedes will be very serious threats to win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.