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Team Sweden

Filip Forsberg receives praise for shot

Team Sweden forward compared to Alex Ovechkin, needs to provide offense in World Cup semifinal

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

TORONTO -- A big part of Team Sweden center Nicklas Backstrom's job at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 is to get the puck to left wing Filip Forsberg in a shooting position.

For Backstrom, it reminds him of playing with another left wing.

"He reminds me of playing with Alex [Ovechkin] with his quick release," Backstrom said, comparing his six-time Rocket Richard Trophy winning Washington Capitals' teammate to his 22-year-old Team Sweden linemate. "He loves shooting the puck. He loves to go to the net. He loves creating stuff. In that way he reminds me of Ovi."

Forsberg was told what Backstrom said after Team Sweden's practice at Air Canada Centre on Friday in advance of its semifinal game against Team Europe on Sunday (1 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports).

He was thrilled.

"He's a 50-goal scorer every year, so that's gotta be something good," Forsberg said.

Video: NAT@SWE: Forsberg beats Gibson blocker side

The irony is that Forsberg, Backstrom and Ovechkin could have been teammates in Washington. They would have been but former Capitals general manager George McPhee traded Forsberg to the Nashville Predators for Martin Erat before the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline.

Now Forsberg is a burgeoning star in Music City. He's the same for the Swedish national team.

Forsberg scored 33 goals last season after scoring 26 as a rookie in 2014-15. He has one goal on eight shots in three games at the World Cup, his second time playing for Sweden's national team. He scored eight goals on 28 shots in eight games at the 2015 IIHF World Championship, his first experience playing for Sweden.

Team Sweden is banking on Forsberg to provide offense against Team Europe on Sunday to help advance to the best-of-3 final. The Predators are banking on Forsberg to be even better this season.

"I saw a lot of growth and maturity [in Forsberg last season]," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "I saw a player that was able to handle, in the second full year, the rigors of the NHL and being able to stay strong and be a real force for us. The schedule can sometimes grind players down. Filip took steps and really was a strong player for us, a consistent player. He's a guy that we're counting on to take the next step and be a real productive player for us."

Forsberg is doing that with the Swedish national team now. He's turning heads, mainly because of his shot, which is the first thing Team Sweden's players mention when they get asked about Forsberg.

"When he has the puck he's unbelievable," said defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, one of three players on Sweden's World Cup team who also played with Forsberg in the 2015 World Championship. "If he keeps playing like he's playing he's going to be a superstar in the NHL."

Ekman-Larsson said Forsberg gives himself an advantage because he uses a long stick.

"It's hard to take the puck away from him," he said. "He has a great reach so he can shoot from far away, but in tight too. You have to be aware of him."

That's going to be a job for Team Europe defenseman Roman Josi Sunday. It's an obvious change of pace for Josi, who plays with Forsberg in Nashville and, like Team Sweden's players, mentions Forsberg's shot first when he's asked about him.

"He's got a great release and it's tough for goalies," Josi said. "He releases it so quick and you don't know where it's going."

Josi agreed with the comparison to Ovechkin, especially on the man-advantage.

"He's set up like Ovechkin too on the power play and we look for him for his shot, for his one-timer," Josi said. "He's definitely a shooter and a goal scorer."

Does he know any tricks that will help him Sunday?

"Yeah, don't let him shoot too much," Josi said, laughing. "Whenever he gets close to the net he's really dangerous and can release that wrist shot really quick, so don't let him shoot it too much."

That'll be a challenge, because Team Sweden wants Forsberg to shoot the puck as much and as often as he can. That's why he's playing on a line with Backstrom and Patric Hornqvist. It's why he's on the power play with them too.

Video: NAT@SWE: 1st Period Highlights

Backstrom is creative enough to get Forsberg the puck in shooting positions. He does it exactly how he does it for Ovechkin in Washington. Hornqvist gets to the front of the net to be the screen that makes Forsberg's shot even tougher on goalies.

"Whenever I have it I want to shoot it," Forsberg said. "I want to say I'm a good shooter and I want to prove it as well."

He's drawing comparisons to Ovechkin, the best shooter and goal scorer in the game now. It's safe to say he's proven it.

"I totally see it," said defenseman Mattias Ekholm, who also plays with Forsberg in Nashville. "When he gets the puck it's like that (snaps fingers), and then he scores a goal. His shot is amazing. Goalies just can't seem to stop the puck. That's the case with Ovi too."

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