Two days ago, Sweden announced their roster for the 2010 World Junior Championships to be played in Saskatchewan, Canada. Devils prospects Mattias Tedenby (23 GP, 2 G, 3 A with HV71) and Jacob Josefson (20 GP, 3 G, 5 A with Djurgardens) were named to the roster; but Alexander Urbom was not. Even the IIHF article about the team's roster was surprised at the omission of Urbom and two other Swedish players.
Coach [Pär] Mårts surprised many observers by not naming any of the high-profile Swedish players who currently perform well in the Canadian junior leagues. Among the notable absentees are goaltender Robin Lehner (Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), defenceman Alexander Urbom (Brandon, WHL) and forward Gabriel Landeskog (Kitchener, OHL).
When an article from the organization that's running the tournament is surprised at some of a team's selection, it's definitely not a minor issue. To get some insight, I've contacted Adam Savonen of Norren's Hockeyblogg, which is based in Skelleftea about the omissions. While the emphasis is on AIK, Savonen follows the Swedish Elite Leagues as well as Sweden's national teams.
He answered plainly why Robin Lehner wasn't named. As it stands, Jacob Markström and Anders Nilsson are apparently #1 goaltenders in the senior SEL, whereas Lehner is younger and playing in the OHL. According to Savonen, it is expected that Markström will get the majority of minutes with Nilsson playing in relief. 2011 should see Lehner on the Swedish WJC team.
As far as Urbom goes, Savonen thought he was "unlucky" to not be on the team. Apparently, the head coach Mårts felt that Urbom was trying too hard to be an offensive player. I'm not sure where that's coming from. He's not devoid of any offensive skill. In 27 games with Brandon, Urbom has 7 goals and 16 assists and is a +13 along with 36 penalty minutes. Not bad, but it's not as if he's leading the blueline in points (that would be Colby Robak). And I'm not even sure why that's a bad thing.
Savonen told me that Urbom is angry with Mårts about his views without having seen him play. I can certainly understand! At 6'4" and 216 pounds, Urbom made it to New Jersey's training camp, survived the first cut, and got limited minutes in a preseason game. He made an impression on the New Jersey Devils of the NHL; he's more experienced for the smaller rink; and he isn't at all afraid to use that large frame of his. Savonen tells me that Mårts wants Sweden to be more physical based on what he saw last year. Well, I don't see why Urbom couldn't do that.
I think the reasoning goes beyond Urbom jumping from the SEL to WHL and it comes from what Savonen suggested about Landeskog. Even Savonen was surprised that he wasn't selected and could only guess that perhaps Sweden isn't scouting the Canadian junior leagues all that well. I can certainly believe that in both player's cases. With a roster almost entirely based in the SEL save for possibly Erik Karlsson - and with four players from AIK in Skelleftea - the drive to go abroad for serious scouting may not have been present and therefore Mårts went with who he knows.
In my opinion, that's shortsighted. But with the recent crop of strong Swedish prospects, the chances of the team doing well are still pretty good. And I am biased for Urbom, as I'd like to see another Devil prospect go to the WJC and show off how he has developed to the world of hockey. Still, it really is unfortunate to learn that a simple lack of attention paid to a prospective national team player led to him not being selected. I hope Urbom doesn't carry too much of a grudge for Mårts.
If you have any knowledge about Team Sweden's set-up or would like to offer different reasons as to why Urbom didn't make it (were the other defenders just better? maybe someone familiar with Sweden and/or Brandon could chime in to help) or discuss the issue at hand, please leave your thoughts in the comments. Big thanks to Adam Savonen of Norren's Hockeyblogg for providing this information about Sweden's U-20 team.