Newspaper article International New York Times

Swedish Players Increasingly Drawn to U.S. College Teams

Newspaper article International New York Times

Swedish Players Increasingly Drawn to U.S. College Teams

Article excerpt

Two players on the Swedish team at the world junior championship in Finland also play college hockey in the United States, as do 21 other Swedes.

Forty years ago, Anders Carlsson was believed to be the first Swede to play college hockey in the United States when he suited up for Yale. Since then, there have been 111 Swedish hockey players in the N.C.A.A., and about 20 percent of them -- 23 -- are currently enrolled.

It is not just the quantity of Swedish players taking the college route that has increased, but also the quality.

At the world junior championship tournament taking place in Helsinki, Sweden's team includes two college players: Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, a Boston University freshman, and William Lagesson, a freshman at Massachusetts. A third Swede, Fredrik Olofsson (Nebraska-Omaha), was one of the final two players cut from the team.

Before this year, there had been only three college hockey players to don Tre Kronor -- the three-crown Swedish national emblem -- for the country's junior team at this annual tournament: Carl Hagelin (Michigan) in 2008, Gustav Olofsson (Colorado College) in 2014 and Leon Bristedt (Minnesota) last year.

In the past, American college hockey was for Swedish players whose professional prospects had faded but who wanted to pursue a quality education and continue playing competitively.

That was until Douglas Murray became the first Swedish college player to reach the N.H.L. Murray spent four years at Cornell, where he was a two-time all-American, before making his N.H.L. debut for the San Jose Sharks in 2005. He also played on the Swedish Olympic team in 2010.

The more traditional route to the N.H.L. for a Swedish player begins with his local team. If he is good enough, he works his way up through the age groups to a junior team and then a professional team in the Swedish Hockey League. Many young elite players face a developmental quandary when they are too good for the junior team but not good enough to earn a lot of ice time on the professional team.

Murray's success opened the eyes of elite youth hockey players in Sweden, who began to view the N.C. …

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