In August the Danish national team reached another major milestone for the hockey program. After a bunch of close but just short, Olympic qualification results, the Danes finally qualified for the Olympic games. A massive achievement for the nation which has been on the rise since the early 2000s and it even got better for the Danish hockey program when the Women’s team also made history and qualified for the first time earlier this month. With the qualification, the question then turns to who ends up going, and while there are still a bunch of question marks for the men’s team, here is my prediction for how the Danish team will line up on the 9th of February against the Czech Republic.
Forward Honorable Mentions:
The top line is as safe as it can possibly be. Ehlers and Bjorkstrand are going to play together without a shadow of a doubt, just like they did in the qualifying rounds where they were paramount for the Danish success. Ehlers especially had a fantastic tournament scoring a bunch of important goals throughout. With an NHL-caliber center like Lars Eller in the middle, it’s a top-line that can create some much-needed offence for the Danes in almost any game in the tournament.
The second line has been playing together in almost all possible games for Denmark the past year and has shown great chemistry. Everyone on it has played a bunch of NHL games and it has a good mix of everything. The speed and skill come from Bødker which leaves space for Jensen who has a great shot, while the Danish captain Regin’s defensive abilities allow them to be offensive and take risks.
The third and fourth line is less offensively potent. It’s far more defensive and is meant to be able to shut down the other teams and allow Ehlers and Bjorkstrand some much-needed rest in the games. Especially Nielsen who has been the inspiration to nearly all Danish hockey since he made the NHL as the first Danish-born and trained player in 2007, is a brilliant shutdown center and will probably be on the penalty kill for a lot of the time.
Lastly, the extras will be a mix of the old and new. Poulsen is the most capped player for Denmark and always has been a leader for the team. He might not play a lot of minutes, but he should be going and marking a fitting ending to his career for Denmark. The second extra is Røndbjerg who made his NHL debut this season and even grabbed his first goal for the Vegas Golden Knight. He could feature and take out Hardt from the lineup.
Hardt probably is the biggest question mark on the forward side of Denmark. He has been injured a lot the past year and if he doesn’t recover, a player like Røndbjerg could knock him out completely and replace him with Julian Jakobsen who is a center and has been another big part of the Danish lineup over the past decade. If not Jakobsen, former Blackhawks prospect Mathias From is an option since he has an offensive spark and jump, that head coach Heinz Ehlers might be interested in having in his pocket if needed.
Defensive Honorable Mentions:
Denmarks biggest weakness of the team is their defence. While it’s not awful by any stretch of the imagination and most play in either the SHL or DEL it’s where Denmark struggled over the years. While Denmark has been able to create forwards that’s made it to the NHL and stayed for long, only Phillip Larsen and Oliver Lauridsen have NHL experience and that is very minimal. However, both made great careers in the KHL.
Having Larsen on the top line is a major reinforcement for the Danes. He has rarely been a part of the Danish World Championship teams, but during the Olympic qualifying rounds, he was one of the main reasons for it, since he is the best puck-moving defender on the roster. Second to Larsen in that aspect is Markus Lauridsen who has been a revelation over the past two years for the Danish national team, being an offensive defenseman who scores a ton of points on the powerplay. He has a great shot, but his vision has been a great benefit for Denmark under the leadership of Heinz Ehlers. It will be up to those two to create offence from the blueline and break the puck out of the zone effectively.
The defensive responsibility will be for the rest, who are all very good defensive defensemen who have a lot of physicality. Especially Oliver Lauridsen, Jesper Jensen Aabo, and Nicholas B. Jensen are great at clearing the front of the net and aren’t scared of throwing the body if need be. However, the main task will be to stop the top guys of the other teams, and when that’s Alexander Ovechkin and David Pastrnak that challenge might be too much to handle, so Denmark needs them to find an unknown level to cause an upset.
The defensive lineup does seem fairly set, but should an injury happen to one of the 8 locks, watch someone like Bruggisser take over as one of the puck-moving defenders for Denmark.
This is probably the easiest selection for Denmark. There is no doubt Frederik Andersen is the starter for the Danes if he is healthy in February. The Danish goaltender has been fantastic for the Carolina Hurricanes this season, posting a .937 Savepercent and 1.88 GGA in his first 13 games for the team. He has been one of the best goalies this season and he is back to his best after a shaky last season for the Leafs. With Andersen back, Denmark has a backbone that gives them the chance to be a nuisance to the rest of the teams. With Ehlers and Bjorkstrand able to score goals against anyone, and Andersen on this type of form, Denmark has a chance to make some major upsets in this tournament.
It is also worth mentioning Dahm who is one of the key reasons for Denmark getting to participate in the Olympics in the first place. With Andersen out with his injury, he was the backbone that helped Denmark win the qualifying group, and especially his shutout and star performance against Norway in the final must-win game was a major reason Denmark made it in the end. He has also had multiple great runs at the World Championships for Denmark, and he is a fantastic backup for Denmark.
The last spot should go to Mads Søgaard who has been seen as the next great Danish goaltender. While he more than likely won’t play a single second, he will most likely get some great experience by being a part of the team.
If for some mysterious reason, that one of the three isn’t going, then it will be a fight between Frederik Dichow and George Sørensen. Sørensen has been a great goalie in the Danish league for the past few seasons and will be known for his heroics at the 2015 World Juniors in Toronto. Dichow on the other hand has had a magical season in the second tier of Swedish hockey, and the young Montreal prospect has shown that he might be worth keeping an eye on over the next few years, so getting him some Olympic experience might be good for his development.
Prediction For Denmark:
While Group B isn’t as explosive as Group A, Denmark does find themselves up against some rough matchups. Their first game against the Czechs is a baptism by fire and while Denmark historically has done well against them in the past few tournaments it will require an outrageous performance from the topline and Andersen. Even more so against Russia. Their chance will be against the Swiss where they could get an upset win if things go their way. Ultimately, I think Denmark might take the Swiss to overtime but end up losing that game and ending up on a single point in the group. That takes them into the playoff rounds where they more than likely will face up against a top nation and here is probably the end for the Dane’s first Olympics.
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