Fairly significant Olympic hockey news came down this morning, as it was announced that Red Wings forward Johan Franzen will miss the tournament due to an injury. As per tradition, this immediately began speculation regarding who could replace Franzen next month in Russia as part of Team Sweden.
Let’s throw this bit of speculation into the fore – could Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund be on the short-list?
Here’s a quick look at the top 20 NHL forwards in scoring who hail from the country of Sweden. Bolded guys are already on the team.
- Nickas Backstrom (WSH) 50 points
- Alex Steen (STL) 45 points
- Henrik Zetterberg (DET) 44 points
- Gabriel Landeskog (COL) 40 points
- Daniel Sedin (VAN) 40 points
- Henrik Sedin (VAN) 40 points
- Marcus Johansson (WSH) 33 points
- Daniel Alfredsson (DET) 32 points
- Patric Hornqvist (NSH) 27 points
- Carl Soderberg (BOS) 25 points
- Mikael Backlund (CGY) 23 points
- Johan Franzen (DET) 23 points
- Marcus Kruger (CHI) 23 points
- Patrick Berglund (STL) 22 points
- Carl Hagelin (NYR) 20 points
- Mika Zibanejad (OTT) 20 points
- Gustav Nyquist (DET) 17 points
- Loui Ericsson (BOS) 17 points
- Victor Stalberg (NSH) 15 points
- Jakob Silfverberg (ANA) 15 points
As you can see, Backlund’s snugly in the middle of the pack here. He may also be the hottest commodity presently on this list. Here’s the un-bolded names again, but their scoring in the last 10 games:
- Marcus Johansson (WSH) 4 assists
- Patric Hornqvist (NSH) 1 goal, 2 assists
- Carl Soderberg (BOS) 2 goals, 3 assists
- Mikael Backlund (CGY) 6 goals, 1 assist
- Mika Zibanejad (OTT) 1 goal, 1 assist
- Gustav Nyquist (DET) 4 goals, 3 assists
- Victor Stalberg (NSH) 1 goal, 2 assists
In terms of recent play, it’s probably between Backlund and Nyquist. Backlund’s possibly been Calgary’s best offensive threat over the last while, operating without Mike Cammalleri and Curtis Glencross. Nyquist plays for Detroit, with easily a much deeper line-up of established offensive weapons to play alongside.
The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation is expected to name a replacement for Franzen quickly, as they have to arrange for travel and whatnots.
SWE coach Mårts’s reserve list for Sochi, via DN: G: Lehner, D: Grossmann, Gustafsson, Brodin, S. Kronwall, F: Hörnqvist, Johansson, Nyquist
— Puckarinen (@puckarinen) January 24, 2014
It’s also worth noting that a lot of Swedish players are hurt right now. Henrik Sedin, Zetterberg and Steen are all nursing injuries, s even if Backlund doesn’t get Franzen’s spot, there’s a chance he could be pressed into action. As noted by the Canadian side, each team submits a list of up to 25 players as reserves, so there’s no telling if the above list is necessarily exhaustive in terms of potential replacement forwards.
But if Backlund’s not on the short list of replacement forwards – he should be. His recent numbers are among the best of Swedish players.