Predictions For Week 1 Of Sweden Hockey Nationals
The Sweden Ice Hockey Federation’s under-16 youth hockey national tournament gets underway on Friday. It begins the first of a three-week process in a quest to determine who is the number one team in the country at the 2006 birth year.
This week, the first leg of the tournament will take place, in which the 16 teams — divided into four groups of four — will compete in a three-game, round-robin group play, where the top two teams from each group will advance to the second weekend of the tournament.
Here are the groupings and our picks for who should survive the first weekend of action:
GROUP A: Brynäs IF, Färjestad BK, IF Sundsvall, Skellefteå AIK
Färjestad has fared well in cross-region action this season, going all the way back to the Sweden Hockey Trophy in September. They made it all the way to the semifinals last Fall, and propelled the group on success through the rest of the season. A pair of dynamic forwards lead the way for Färjestad, with Jack Berglund and Axel Jansson. The duo has accounted for more than one-fourth of the team’s offense, according to Elite Prospects, and if they get going again this weekend, it could spell trouble for the rest of the field.
Skellefteå has a balanced offensive attack, with two strong forward lines. Forwards Valter Lindberg, Hugo Zetterlund, Viktor Lundström, Elias Hedlund and Oscar Fältén have all eclipsed the 20-point mark this season according to Elite Prospects. In a group that’s expected to see plenty of offense amongst the four teams, Skellefteå has plenty of firepower to go toe-to-toe in high-scoring games.
GROUP B: Luleå HF, Mora IK, Örebro HK, Svedjeholmens
May be the most wide open of the four groups, but Örebro has a good combination of goaltending and scoring that’s hard to ignore at this stage of the season. Forwards Hugo Orrsten, Oscar Davidsson and Philip Larsson have all surpassed the 10-goal plateau this season, as has defenseman Noah Pettersson Askling. Combine that offensive prowess with a goaltender like Herman Liv, who has seen the majority of starts this season while posting a 2.04 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. Franz Axelsson’s 2.25 goals against and .900 save percentage is strong in eight starts as well.
Svedjeholmens has similar strengths, with a pair of goaltenders Albin Sundberg and Olle Wågberg being a near even split in terms of starts. Sundberg boasts an impressive 2.24 goals-against average and .923 save percentage as well. Forward Milton Gästrin averages more than a goal per game with 25 in 23 games. Gustav Dahlin and Wilmer Lundquist combine for 60 points as well, and the defensive duo of Hugo Hallin and Erik Häggblad are impressive. Good goaltending, with a solid line and reliable pair of D makes for a dangerous recipe this time of year.
GROUP C: Flemingsbergs IK, Frölunda HC, HV 71, IFK Täby HC
Flemingsbergs may come into the playoffs with the strongest goaltending among the 16 teams. Adam Frank has a sub-2.00 goals-against average and Latvia native Mikus Vecvangs has an 8-2-0 record. In a group of heavy hitters, FIK should have a leg up in the blue paint. Joakim Engholm is a dynamic goal scorer with 38 points in 18 games. Russian born Maxim Malakhov follows him up with 31 points and six other players have all reached the 20-point plateau this season. In terms of confidence picks, Flemingsbergs has a strong case to be No. 1 when it comes to advancing past the first weekend.
Frölunda went 16-2-0 in the South Region according to EP, with the fewest goals against among U16 teams. Hugo Laring has started 18-of-25 games, and eight forwards have eclipsed the 20-point plateau. Måns Toresson and Philip Ryttinger pace the offense with 18 goals apiece, while Max Grundstrӧm and Viktor Nӧrringer provide a wealth of secondary scoring. Defenseman Alfred Persson is a terrific playmaker from the blue line as well, with 17 assists.
GROUP D: Djurgårdens HF, Malmö Redhawks, SDE Hockey, Växjö Lakers
An elite 2007-born forward in Anton Frondell leads the way for Djurgårdens, with 25 goals and 43 points this season. Martin Mivell also has 25 goals, and fellow forwards Noel Ӧhgren, Hugo Lindell and William Wiman have hit 30 points or more in ‘21-22. The team may have the best offense among Group D teams, and possibly, tops among the entire field of 16. How far can the sensational ‘07 in Frondell take Djurgårdens? We say, at least into the second weekend.
SDE Hockey is a hot team at the right time, with an even hotter goaltender. They essentially played their way into nationals last weekend with a 4-1-0 record, thanks in large part to the efforts of Carl Axelsson. He posted three shutouts and a dominating .965 save percentage to get them to the field of 16. Now the question is, can the guys playing in front of him like Dante Josefsson Westling, Melvin Fernstrӧm and Hugo Råsten get the job done to advance past the first weekend of the tournament? We sure think so.
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