Goalies: The Norwegians may not be very strong, but they do have some of the most underrated goaltenders around. All three, Lars Haugen, Steffen Søberg and Lars Volden, are capable of winning big games when called upon. Haugen basically came out of nowhere a few years back, helping keep the team in the main group since his first tournament back in 2011. Haugen used to be the guy the team would call upon for pretty much every game of the tournament, but the newly-signed Färjestad puckstopper, who built up a solid KHL resume, won’t need to thanks to the excellent talent behind him. Søberg, a former Washington Capitals prospect, put on an incredible performance at last year’s tournament, making 33 saves in an eventual 2-1 loss to the bronze medalists from Sweden. To top that off, Søberg, Norway’s goalie of the future at just 21-years-old, had a 39 save performance against the Canadians prior to the quarter-finals, helping his team stay close in a 3-2 loss against the Sochi champions. Both goalies will likely share the bulk of the duty, but Volden will be chomping at the gate just in case one of the other two netminders fail early on.
Defensemen: Norway’s defense core isn’t as bad as one may think. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is a name North American fans will recognize and if he can stay out of the penalty box, he’ll be an asset on the point. While his NHL career never really got off the ground, Tollefsen has proven to strive with Färjestad BK, and with the Champions Hockey League, SHL action, the Euro Ice Hockey tournament and World Championships all in the same year, Tollefsen has been a busy man this season. Another name that people may recognize is Jonas Holos, a former blueliner with the Colorado Avalanche. With over 100 games of international experience at the young age of 27, the two-way Lokomotiv Yaroslavl defenseman will more than likely see some top pairing action with Tollefsen or Alex Bonsaksen. Like Tollefsen, Bonsaksen has the ability to throw the body around and throw opposing forwards off their game, but he can also chip in offensively without forcing himself out of position too much. Longtime Norwegian defenseman Mats Trygg will be patrolling the blue line for his 16th career World Championship, bringing a level of experience that most players in the tournament can’t claim to have.
Forwards: Patrick Thoresen is always a threat to battle for the World Championship scoring title, and this year is no exception. Currently listed fifth on the all-time KHL scoring chart, Thoresen has represented his country of Norway on the Norwegian national team numerous times. A two time Olympian with Norway, Thoresen is just six points behind Morten Ask for Norway’s all time World Championship scoring record, despite having played 21 less games. Speaking of Ask, the long-time scoring forward won’t likely be used in a top line scoring role, but with five points at last year’s WC’s, he’s proven he’s still got talent. Expected to represent Norway as the top centreman will be Mathis Olimb, the top scorer on Frolunda in the Swedish league this year with 46 points in 51 games. A tremendous scoring threat everywhere he’s played, Olimb’s eight points at the 2014 WC’s were the second best of his career, two years after posting nine in 2012. Other notables include Kristian Forsberg, who can play all three forward positions effectively, Anders Bastiansen, a great leader and penalty killer, and Martin Røymark, a speedy forward who plays well in his own zone.
Projection: The team isn’t a top contender just yet, but Norway is really building a solid foundation for the future. Norway failed to make the playoff round in the past two tournaments, but with some other bubble teams such as Latvia and France missing key players, we could see Norway finding themselves back into the final eight and maybe, just maybe, pull off a major upset.
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