Players to watch and what District could come out on top in Sweden
The conclusion of the 2022 TV-Pucken takes place this weekend. Sweden’s annual U16 tournament features individual players representing 24 districts across the country. The field of teams were whittled down to eight after the first installment of the tournament in September. Remaining teams will compete for the TV-Pucken title in the second phase of the tournament this weekend. The final portion of the event will consist of a single-elimination playoff that starts on Friday.
This particular event is similar to that of Federal District Championships in Russia or Canada’s Youth Olympic Games. Individual players from various winter clubs are selected to represent their respective regions of the country. From there, they compete against top players from other districts in a quest to win a national championship.
The eight remaining districts competing for a national title include: Ångermanland, Gästrikland, Göteborg, Norrbotten, Småland, Stockholm North, Stockholm South and Västerbotten.
The Favorite: Stockholm North
The TV-Pucken dates all the way back to 1959, and the championship games are broadcasted on national TV. The Stockholm District has won 17 titles between its North and South teams. North has won the last three tournaments and should certainly be considered the favorite to win a fourth in a row.
Forward Melvin Novotny plays in the regular season for the No. 10 ranked ‘07 team in the world, Täby HC. He is one of four players from Täby representing Stockholm North. Through the first phase of the TV-Pucken, Novotny led all scorers with six goals and 13 points. His Stockholm North teammate Eric Nilson scored seven goals and 12 points. Nilson is the lone representative from his winter club Järfälla HC, which is currently unranked.
That duo alone should make for matchup nightmares with other Districts this weekend. One opponent that could keep pace with North’s offense is Stockholm South. However, North and South are on opposite sides of the bracket and wouldn’t meet until the championship.
Additionally, Djurgårdens goaltender Hugo Severgårdh backstopped North to its two biggest victories in pool play. He made 13 saves in the 4-3 win over Stockholm South and 14 saves in a 3-2 win over Uppland District. Severgårdh has also played six games with the J18 squad this season, posting a .902 save percentage and 1.83 goals-against average. North has a couple options to put between the pipes, but Severgårdh provides a huge boost of confidence.
The Underdog: Norrbotten
There’s one player that gives Norrbotten a chance against any opponent at TV-Pucken.
The 6-foot-1 goaltender has proved to be one of the best 2007-born net minders in the country. He played as an under-ager last season on the U16 Djurgårdens squad that won a national championship. He’s compiled a 1.50 goals-against average and .938 save percentage in eight J18 games this season. Härenstam also played all five games of TV-Pucken pool play last month, making 64 saves and allowing just seven goals against for Norrbotten.
Great goaltending is the ultimate equalizer. Sprinkle in an elite-level forward like Jakob Ihs-Wozniak and Norrbotten has the makings of an underdog story.
Härenstam in net and Ihs-Wozniak on the wing are as good as anyone in the country. William Morin, Elias Selström and Oliwer Sjöström provide great secondary support as well. Expect Norrbotten to cruise past Småland in the quarterfinals and take Stockholm North right down to the wire in a semifinal matchup. The winner of that game should win the entire tournament.
The Long Shot: Vasterbotten
It’s a long shot because they draw the odds–on favorite in the first round. However, if Vasterbotten can steal a game away from Stockholm North, the road to a championship could open up wide. It’ll be a tall task, given the talent previously mentioned that North possesses.
Vasterbotten may lack star power, but it does have good depth.
In pool play, as many as 10 skaters tallied four points or more through five games. The trio of Liam Hedman, Viktor Klingsell and Tim Dahlgren led the pack with eight points apiece. And while they finished third in Group B, Vasterbotten kept it close with both teams they trailed in the standings. Top-seeded Ångermanland defeated them 4-2 in a close game. Then, two goals in the final minutes of the game with second-seeded Norrbotten inflated the score to a 7-3 final.
A lot would have to go right for Vasterbotten to make a run. Commitment in the defensive zone, blocked shots and a big performance from a goaltender could be just enough to achieve a first-round upset. That happens, and all Hell could break loose.
Bracketology: Predictions For How TV-Pucken Goes Down
The 2021 TV-Pucken tournament saw Stockholm North defeat Stockholm South 3-1 in the championship game. It was just the second time in tournament history that the finale featured an all-Stockholm matchup. All signs point to history repeating itself with the two teams representing the nation’s capital clashing in the championship again this weekend.
North should cruise through its first two games to reach the finale. South faces a bit tougher of a road, but still expect them to come out of its half of the bracket.
They skated to a 4-3 finish in the final game of pool play last month. Eric Nilson and Mattias Nyberg produced multi-point performances that day for Stockholm North. Nilson’s seventh goal of pool play put North on top with under 10 minutes to go in regulation.
Melvin Novotny will be a major player for a Stockholm North playoff run as well. The 5-foot-11 forward is widely regarded as a top forward in the country. The team’s offense should overwhelm most opponents over the weekend.
The only District with potential to match North’s firepower is its neighbors to the south. Power forward Anton Frondell should lead Stockholm South into a rematch for the championship on Sunday. Frondell along with Viktor Hedlund, Arvid Drott and Ruben Westerling will trade blows with heavily-favored Stockholm North.
Stockholm North tops Stockholm South in a nailbiter to win the national championship.
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