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Pontus Holmberg is shining bright for Sweden at the World Championship

Pontus Holmberg (Yuri Kuzmin/KHL)
Photo credit:Pontus Holmberg (Yuri Kuzmin/KHL)
Steven Ellis
29 days ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs might not be active right now, but a few of their players are at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in Czechia.
One of those is Sweden’s Pontus Holmberg, who just completed his second NHL campaign with the Leafs. This is the second time the 6-foot forward has worn the Tre Kronor at this event, having played two games with the team back in 2021. He was a role player for the Swedes at the 2022 Olympics, his last appearance on the international scene until last weekend.
Holmberg seems to have significantly more freedom to play outside his usual bottom-six shutdown role with Sweden this year. He’s been centering the team’s second line alongside Andre Burakovsky and Marcus Johansson, two guys who know a thing or two about working hard and grinding away to get results.
Through three games, Holmberg has three assists – nothing too fancy, but he’s still playing a sizeable role for a team that doesn’t have a ton of high-end firepower up front and is instead relying more on their blueliners to get pucks on the net.
He’s averaging 13:24 a game in ice time while seeing some penalty-kill assignments, too. It’s a decent boost up from his 11:34 average with the Leafs this year, in which he produced seven goals and 17 points in 54 games as a sophomore. He definitely could shoot the puck a bit more – he has one shot through 40:14 of total ice time – but he does enough away from the puck to be noteworthy.
One of those things – his relentless backchecking. He’s winning a ton of battles by just lifting the stick of an opponent and getting his body in the way of passing lanes. Holmberg’s trademark is just how responsible defensively he is, and that seems to rub off on his teammates. You don’t want to be overworked by a 25-year-old depth NHLer, do you?
It just seems like whenever Holmberg is on the ice in the offensive zone, he makes something happen. It’s not always a scoring chance, but it could be taking a lane away from a defender, drawing someone away from a passing lane, or clearing space in front of the net. He’s usually one of the first players back each time, too. All stuff you’d expect to see from him in Toronto, but he has done a good job of exploiting the bigger international ice, too.
Sweden will have the advantage heading into Wednesday’s game against Kazakhstan before finishing off the week with an early start against Latvia on Saturday. The Swedes are first in Group B with a perfect 3-0-0-0 record, chasing their first gold since going back to back in 2017 and 2018. The win against the United States to open the tourney – which saw Holmberg register two assists – could be what helps them win Group B and a date with the fourth-place team in Group A a week from today.
So, if you’re looking for someone to cheer for, keep an eye on Holmberg over the next week and a half.

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