NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Hoisting the Stanley Cup over one’s head is not a wish reserved solely for the many NHL-dreaming youngsters north of the border from Nova Scotia to Manitoba to British Columbia. Nor are they only for those on ice surfaces from Massachusetts to Michigan to Minnesota.
It is a dream that kids throughout North America share. And it goes beyond our borders. Growing up outside Stockholm, Rickard Rakell long had the thought of one day having possession of the Cup in his mind. Still does.
“It’s definitely something special,” said Rakell, the Ducks’ sharp-shooting goal-scorer. “It feels like every summer, you know somebody that’s going to bring the Cup home and have a big party. It’s a big deal in Sweden. I’m getting more jealous for every time you don’t bring it home.”
The Stanley Cup sure does matter to the many, such as Rakell, who have found their way from the Scandinavian nation of 9.8 million into the National Hockey League. In the Western Conference finals, the Ducks and Nashville Predators each have integral players who are an example of the continual growth and impact of Swedish hockey.
Rakell led all Swedish-born players in the 2016-17 regular season with 33 goals and he’s joined on the Ducks by top two-way winger Jakob Silfverberg and shutdown defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Silfverberg is tied with Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel for the playoff lead with nine goals. Lindholm is an all-situation player logging more than 22 minutes a night.
The Predators have five Swedes in their lineup – Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson, Mattias Ekholm, Calle Jarnkrok, Pontus Aberg – and the first three are among their most critical. Forsberg and Arvidsson led Nashville with 31 goals this season while Ekholm is a top-four defender on one of the NHL’s best units.
The Ducks have incorporated more Swedish players into their system in recent years, with high-round draft picks Jacob Larsson and Marcus Pettersson among their top…