Sweden recently participated in the 47th World Junior Championship competition, walking away with a fourth-place finish. The nordic country’s involvement in the tournament has led to a hand full of records and unforgettable moments. Whether it was Mika Zibanejad’s golden goal in 2012, Peter Forsberg’s ten-point game against Japan in 1993, or the team’s 54-game winning streak in the round-robin, there’s isn’t a page in history without their name on it.
Although Sweden was a favorite to walk away with a medal, they will return home as the 2024 hosts with nothing to show for their efforts this year. However, there are 11 players eligible for next year’s squad, meaning the hard lessons they learned could motivate them to win gold on home ice in Gothenburg.
Now that the tournament is over, we can look back at the top five moments Sweden fans will remember and talk about for years to come.
Ludvig Jansson’s Round-Robin Overtime Winner
Ludvig Jansson’s name would have never come up if anyone had asked the experts who would be leading the Swedish junior team in scoring at the 2023 tournament. Now, this is not a knock on the fourth-round prospect of the Florida Panthers; it is simply a process of elimination and observation based on statistics. Jansson currently has one goal and five assists with Södertälje SK in HockeyAllsvenskan, which isn’t bad considering he’s a defenceman.
However, in Sweden’s 11-0 victory over Austria, he exploded for three assists in the lopsided win to be amongst the team leaders in points after one game. Then, after a quiet match against Germany, he erupted in the Czechia game for two goals to tie Isok Rosén for the team lead.
After Czechia jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, Fabian Wagner tied it, and then Jansson gave Sweden their first lead less than two minutes later. While maintaining a 2-1 advantage at 40 minutes, Jiri Tichacek knotted up the contest again, setting the stage for some overtime magic. That’s when Jansson potted his second of the game and kept the Swedes undefeated through their first three games.
Carl Lindbom Denies Finland Golden Opportunity
There will be a lot of discussion about who the best goalie was at the 2023 tournament, whether it was Canada’s Thomas Milic, Czechia’s Tomas Suchanek, or Sweden’s Carl Lindbom. Now, two goalies walked away with medals, and one earned nothing except a Top 3 Player on Team Award. Despite his outstanding play for six games, most people will remember Lindbom’s rather odd performance in the bronze medal game, surrendering eight goals and departing the tournament with a .914 save percentage (SV%) after leading the event with a .949 SV%.
Lindbom started the tournament with back-to-back shutouts before giving up two goals against Czechia. Furthermore, like the team in front of him, he had a bad game against Canada, resulting in five goals setting up a matchup against Finland in the playoffs. Even though he allowed two goals in the quarterfinals, Lindbom was a wall in the net, making 33 saves to secure Sweden’s advancement into the final four.
Latest News & Highlights
There were several moments throughout all the games where broken plays resulted in glorious scoring opportunities; however, Lindbom was always there with the glove or pad. Although he was busier against Canada and the United States, he lost both of those contests, which once again speaks to how important his performance was towards the team’s success. After the final buzzer, he was the main reason Sweden even competed for a medal, thanks to brilliant moments like his performance against Finland.
Captain Viktor Stjernborg’s Shorthanded Goal
Rivalries are commonplace in hockey, especially between teams or countries that often meet enough to build animosity toward one another. However, rivalries like Sweden and Finland are more organic since the two countries share a border. Whenever these two meet at any international competition, the intensity gets kicked into high gear because national pride in the Nordics is also on the line.
At the 2023 tournament, Sweden and Finland met in the quarterfinal, an unexpected early playoff matchup since both teams were in contention for the top seed in their group until the end of the round-robin. Ultimately, this game did not disappoint, with Finland blowing a 1-0 and 2-1 lead in the third period before Leo Carlsson tied it with 3:27 left to play.
Then, in case the late dramatics were not enough, Fabian Lysell took a penalty with 1:46 left, setting the stage for captain Viktor Stjernbord to score a shorthanded goal just 41 seconds later. Ultimately, his heroics propelled Sweden to the semi-final and ended Finland’s tournament, two great things to celebrate as a Sweden fan.
Fabian Lysell Ejected From Finale
Nineteen-year-old Fabian Lysell returned to represent his home country in his second straight World Junior Championship. After netting six points at the 2022 event, he participated in his last junior tournament registering zero points in six and a half games. Sadly, he failed to find his name on the scoresheet outside a team-leading 29 penalty minutes.
Participating at the World Junior Championship is the crowning achievement for some players or coming out parties for prospects who eventually become stars in the NHL. However, Lysell is already a first-round pick (Boston Bruins) and is playing professionally in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins. Whether or not he is concerned about his junior career legacy is not for us to decide; yet, the way he finished it is something we can debate about for years to come.
At 7:53 of the second period in the bronze medal game, Lysell went to lay a stiff body check on American Kenny Collins but caught him in the head, resulting in a game ejection and ending his participation in the tournament. Although the Swedes were the best team at killing penalties, his unnecessary hit in a medal game hurt the team on several levels. Luckily for Lysell, they managed to kill off the five-minute major; however, his presence on the bench and the ice were missing for the remainder of the contest.
Furthermore, Lysell will not be eligible for the 2024 tournament; thus, his final memory at the event will always be an ill-advised headshot.
Filip Bystedt’s Game-Tying Goal With 22 Seconds Left
The San Jose Sharks used their first-round pick in the 2022 Entry Draft to select Filip Bystedt, who is just 18 years old. His participation at the 2023 tournament marked the first time he represented Sweden at the highest junior level, and he didn’t disappoint.
After seven games, he led the team in scoring with ten points, potting four goals and adding six helpers. Moreover, he stayed in contention for Sweden’s scoring title with Jansson, who surprised many with his ability to score. Although the team had other elite prospects in the lineup, Bystedt used this World Juniors to showcase his skills on the world stage and scored perhaps the Swedes’ most significant goal of the tournament.
In the bronze medal game against the United States, Sweden fell behind 2-0 before Bystedt got his team on the board in the second. Before the end of the period, the teams exchanged nine goals to head into the final 20 minutes tied at five. Then, Sweden grabbed their first lead four minutes in before giving up two goals to trail 7-6 with 1:37 left in the game.
With the goaltender pulled and the extra man on the ice, Bystedt fired home the game-tying goal with 22 seconds left to stun a United States team who thought the game was over. Although the Swedes would go on to lose in overtime, Bystedt’s goal will be a moment everyone will remember, given its significance. If he never plays at the tournament again, he will always have this memory as the savior who gave his team one final chance to win a medal.
After leaving Canada without a medal, Sweden returns home to host the 2024 World Junior Championship in Gothenburg, which begins on Dec. 26, 2023. Next year’s team should be eager to put this tournament in the rearview mirror and look forward to the opportunity to skate in front of their fans. Although the next game is 12 months away, fans can relieve special moments from this past tournament as they wait for the next puck drop.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.