Norway isn't known for producing high-end hockey players, but the team has qualified for two consecutive Olympics and is piecing together a program that is capable of surprising other nations if they aren't paying attention or are looking beyond Norway on the schedule.
We all know that the "fifth line" for Canada could arguably take over for the top line for Norway, but don't sleep on this deep group of quick and stingy wingers and defensemen.
While the team doesn't posses the same kind of name recognition as other nations, it does have familiarity going for it. A lot of these players have spent considerable amount of time playing next to one another, which could give them an advantage once the Olympics roll around.
They'll need all the help they can get with tough matchups against Canada and Finland to open the tournament.
All statistics appear courtesy of HockeyDB.com.
Ken Andre Olimb
Mats Rosseli Olsen
Per-Age Skroder, Left Wing: A veteran of the SEL, Per-Age Skroder was never drafted by an NHL team but has an outstanding shot and is among the most lethal scorers on Norway's roster. He has struggled to find the back of the net this year for MODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik, but the five-time 20-goal scorer has the touch needed to skate on this top line.
Patrick Thoresen, Center: If Norway has a secret weapon, Patrick Thoresen is it. He's noted for his strong two-way play and has shown flashes of elite finishing ability as well—he trailed only Evgeni Malkin in scoring at the 2012 World Championship. Norway doesn't have a lot of depth up the middle, and the team will lean on the 30-year-old pivot.
Mats Zuccarello, Right Wing: The only current NHL player set to represent Norway at the Olympics, Mats Zuccarello is a known commodity for this team. He's incredibly quick and is the leading scorer for the New York Rangers with 30 points through 43 games.
What's Expected: It isn't fair to say that Norway will live and die with this line because of how deep the team is on the wing, but Norway needs to get a lot of scoring chances from Skroder, Thoresen and Zuccarello if it want to compete with the likes of Canada and Finland.
Look for the trio to try to generate chances with their speed and by forcing turnovers in the neutral zone via harsh, quick backchecking. What this line lacks in size, it more than makes up for with haste, and that could make all the difference for Norway.
Mathis Olimb, Left Wing: The first thing you'll notice about Mathis Olimb is his patience with the puck. He can slow the game down like some of the better centers in the world, but he works his magic from the wing. He is also deceptively quick and can blow around defenders if they're caught napping.
Anders Bastiansen, Center: While the Olimb brothers have speed on lockdown, Anders Bastiansen is a much slower but bigger player. That's the odd wrinkle for this trio. He's listed at 6'3" and weighs in at 205 pounds, and he can be tough to handle down low for opposing defenders. He knows how to use his size to his advantage, which is good since his wings are microscopic.
Ken Andre Olimb, Right Wing: Rounding out Norway's clear contingent of top-six forwards is Ken Andre Olimb. Like his brother Mathis, he's fast and can break games open at times with his skill set. He is a steady producer who can set up goals as easily as he can finish them.
What's Expected: Any heavy lifting that the first line isn't able to handle will fall to this second line. The division between Norway's talented forwards and grinders is impossible to miss. On the whole, mostly all of the team's scoring will come from these top two lines.
There are a few individuals who can score from the bottom six, but Norway is much more likely to use the third and fourth lines and checking/shutdown lines while jostling for more favorable matchups for first two lines.
Martin Roymark, Left Wing: Standing between the opposition's top line and dominance will be Norway's third line, which is led by the two-way acumen of Martin Roymark. While not overly physical, the 27-year-old is a hard worker in all three zones and an absolute hound on the puck. Like almost all of the forwards on this team, he's swift and will count on that to be the difference against nations with larger players.
Kristian Forsberg, Center: Capable of playing center or wing, Kristian Forsberg brings a high hockey IQ to the table, and he utilizes his smarts to poke holes in the games of opposing forwards. Another good skater with a touch of finishing ability, he is a prototypical third-line guy.
Marius Holtet, Right Wing: It's likely that Roymark and Marius Holtet will be Norway's top two penalty-killing forwards. Holtet stands out on this squad because he's somewhat abrasive and has even been called "rugged." On a team full of agile and slick forwards, there's no underestimating the important role that Holtet will play.
What's Expected: Roymark, Forsberg and Holtet form a quintessential third line. There's plenty of speed to burn here and a lot of defensive IQ as well. Holtet gives the trio a unique look because of his willingness to play with some sandpaper, and it's this line that will be squaring off against the Sidney Crosby line for Canada and the top line for Finland.
Robin Dahlstrom, Left Wing: Standing at 6'0" and weighing in at 209 pounds, Robin Dahlstrom sticks out for the same reasons as Holtet. He's one of the few guys from Norway who's willing to throw the gloves—not that there are ever many fights in the Olympics. He falls into the "tough to play against" category of forward.
Mads Hansen, Center: Rounding out Norway's penalty-killing unit will be Mads Hansen. He's an outstanding two-way player with a boatload of intangibles to boot. At 35, he's one of the eldest players on the team, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him wearing a letter at the Olympics.
Mats Rosseli Olsen, Right Wing: If any of the top-six forwards go down with an injury, look for Mats Rosseli Olsen to take his spot. While he doesn't have the skill set of a bottom-line forward, Olsen is—you guessed it!—a rapid skater who can close gaps instantaneously, making him a valuable forechecker.
What's Expected: Olsen could sneak in and do some damage in the offensive zone from this line. Hansen is one of Norway's best defensive-minded forwards and can help clean up any mess left behind by a misplay from Olsen.
Otherwise, the fourth line's job will be the same as that of the third line: Score if it can but give no quarter.
Sondre Olden: Likely the first reserve who could get into a game, Sondre Olden is young but skilled. He's only 21, but the former third-round pick (2010, Toronto Maple Leafs) is lanky and creative. If Norway's power play struggles—something that the team can't thrive without—Olden could get a nod due to his high-end ability with the extra man.
Niklas Roest: If anything happens to a bottom-six forward, or if Olsen ends up getting the bump, Niklas Roest is an adequate replacement in the bottom two lines. He plays the same kind of quick, defensive-minded game as the rest of the bottom six and would slot in without issue.
Morten Ask: One of the more interesting players on Norway's roster, Morten Ask is capable of playing as a forward or a defenseman. He's a good penalty killer but doesn't fit the mold of quick and agile players on this roster. He isn't a particularly good skater and isn't as technically proficient as the rest of the players here either.
Mats Trygg: Far and away the most skilled offensive defenseman on the team, Mats Trygg will be counted on to quarterback the top power-play unit while producing some points from the back end during five-on-five action. He's a fleet-footed defender who is capable of making crisp, clean outlet passes.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen: NHL fans might remember Ole-Kristian Tollefsen from his days with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unlike Trygg, he is a rough and tumble customer who thrives when games get physical. Never one to back down from any challenge, "The Norwegian Nightmare" will be one of the more important players on Norway's roster because of his NHL experience and leadership ability.
What's Expected: Trygg and Tollefsen have been Norway's bread-and-butter No. 1 pairing in international play for several years now. Their jobs are simple: Trygg is out there to make offense happen, while Tollefsen is the anchor of the unit who hits anything that moves.
Jonas Holos: Back in 2011, Jonas Holos made an attempt to catch on with the Colorado Avalanche. For whatever reason, he fell out of favor with former coach Joe Sacco (shocking, right?), and his NHL hopes seemed to die with that trip to the doghouse. He showed plenty of promise in Colorado though, and he is a good skater who plays well in all three zones.
Alexander Bonsaksen: The keystone to Alexander Bonsaksen's game is simplicity. He never tries to do too much with the puck and is well-aware of his own limitations as a player. This works in his favor though, as he rarely makes a mistake. He's a solid all-around defender who doesn't mind physicality despite his smallish frame (5'11", 183 pounds).
What's Expected: Both Holos and Bonsaken are responsible players who should keep Norway out of trouble whenever the No. 1 duo is taking a breather. The top four could easily end up skating 20-plus minutes on a nightly basis, which makes this pairing's emphasis on mistake-free hockey a boon for Norway.
Henrik Odegaard: Norway features several explosive forwards, and Henrik Odegaard fulfills that role from the blue line. He's an agile skater with a booming shot from the point. His lack of sound defensive play holds him back a bit, but he'll get a few looks on this third pairing, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him with some power-play time as well.
Henrik Solberg: At 6'3" and 220 pounds, Henrik Solberg will be among the larger players out on the ice for Norway on any given night. He's able to make an impact on the physical aspect of the game without taking many penalties, and he can pitch in the occasional point as well.
What's Expected: As stated in the previous slide, Norway will likely count on its top four to play some heavy minutes. Odegaard and Solberg both have holes in their game that could be exposed against the more super-powered forwards at the Games. A limited number of mistakes through a limited number of minutes is the baseline expectation.
Daniel Sorvik: Barring an injury to one of Norway's top-six defenders, it seems unlikely that Daniel Sorvik will make an impact in Sochi.
Lars Haugen, Starter: As one of the few Norwegian goalies playing at a professional level, Lars Haugen is a shoo-in to be the team's starter at the Olympics. He's been in the KHL since 2011, but he only played in a single contest that year. Overall, his record is 18-19, and he sports a goals-against average of 2.24.
To say that he'll need to be the best player for Norway would be an understatement. The margin for error is nonexistent, as the offense will have a hard time bouncing back from any soft goals.
Lars Volden, Backup: Both Lars Volden and Steffan Soberg are prospects, so Haugen would have to be injured for them to see playing time. Volden is known for his good lateral movement, but he's never faced the level of competition that will be in Sochi. At 21, he has plenty of potential, but 2014 won't be his year.
Steffen Soberg, Third string: Soberg is 20 years old and doesn't have the experience needed to hang with the world's best players through the grueling Olympic tournament. He's small and quick and will learn plenty as the third-string goalie for Norway.