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Pontus Holmberg to play in WJC prep tournament

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Only a few months ago, he was on the “C” team, but he has earned a longer look from Sweden’s coach.

Sweden v Russia - Bronze Medal Game - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
Sweden at last year’s WJC. They want this year’s to go much better.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Sweden announced their roster today for the Four Nations junior tournament that takes place in Czechia in early November. Finland and Russia will join Sweden and their hosts to make up the usual foursome. This is the final event before the training camp in mid-December where Sweden will choose their World Junior Championship roster.

Pontus Holmberg has been named as one of the forwards on the Swedish team. He was drafted 156th overall last summer in the sixth round by the Maple Leafs.

Usually the Swedish WJC roster is somewhat set in the summer at the World Junior Summer Showcase, which was held this year in Kamloops. Sweden sent a team with 14 forwards to that event, but they were missing several of their key defenders — Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren were not available.

For the Four Nations event coming up, the goalies and defenders are largely similar to the WJSS roster, but there has been a lot of change at forward. Sweden has a wide range of potential forwards for this year, but few if any stars.

In August, Holmberg made the U20 team for a tournament that is usually seen as Sweden’s opportunity to look at their “C team” players. This roster comes from the extra long list of prospects who might get bumped up to the bottom of the long list for the WJC camp if something changes over the first few months of the season.

Holmberg was a standout at that event, getting three points in three games and the notice of the coaches and the press. While there are some injuries opening up the forward ranks right now, Holmberg earned his way on this roster with his earlier tournament play, and he sealed the deal by holding down the third-line centre job on Växjö for the season so far in the SHL.

If he makes the cut for the WJC camp in Sweden, that will be an achievement in and of itself, but the WJC itself no longer looks out of his reach. He is listed as having played wing in the earlier tournament, and he may do that again at this one coming up, so his versatility works in his favour. Now, all he has to do is perform well.

The tournament runs from November 9-11.

In related news, the coach of Team Sweden, Tomas Montén, has said he will simply have to wait to see if Adam Boqvist, Erik Brännström, Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are available to play for him. But if they are, they’ll have to earn their spot against the defenders he’s already got.

Montén repeats the same story told by Laurence Gilman and the coach of Rögle in the SHL: Sandin is hurt, and his ultimate playing destination for this season hasn’t been decided yet.