On Monday, Team Sweden took the first step in defending its World Junior championship by unveiling the selection camp roster for the 2013 tournament in Ufa, Russia.
Leading the way is a pair of highly-coveted prospects: Anaheim defenseman Hampus Lindholm, taken sixth overall at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and Filip Forsberg, taken No. 11 overall by Washington.
Forsberg was part of last year’s gold medal-winning team — Sweden’s first WJC title in 31 years — but Lindholm was not. In fact, Forsberg is one of only six returnees, along with Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall, Sebastian Collberg, William Karlsson, Victor Rask and Rickard Rakell.
As such, the biggest story for Team Sweden is who’s not there to defend gold.
Three key members of the 2012 team won’t play this year — Edmonton defenseman Oscar Klefbom, Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin and Ottawa forward Mika Zibanejad.
Brodin and Klefbom, an all-star from the ’12 tourney, are both out with injury. Klefbom’s shelved with a shoulder issue while Brodin broke his clavicle while playing for Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Houston.
Zibanejad, who scored the tournament-winning OT goal in last year’s gold medal game, will remain in North America at the request of the Senators — a request that isn’t sitting well with Sweden head coach Roger Ronnberg.
“It is a big disappointment that Ottawa does not want to release Mika to join the team for the World Juniors,” Ronnberg told IIHF.com. “I have asked our federation to intervene and I am confident they will.
“Having said that, I must focus on the players I have and I can’t let [Ottawa not releasing Zibanejad] steal energy from my work.”
For the full Team Sweden roster, click here.