Stanley Cup Champion looking forward to playing with Rangers center

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Gustav Forsling, fresh off his Stanley Cup victory with the Florida Panthers earlier this week, is eager to join forces with New York Rangers center Mika Zibanejad at the 4 Nations Face-Off in February of 2025.

Each was among the first six players selected to participate for Sweden.

Despite growing up just over an hour away from each other in Sweden, the two have yet to play together on the same team. Forsling expressed genuine excitement about teaming up with the Blueshirts center.

“He’s a fantastic player, very, very smart, highly skilled, and he does it all for the Rangers,” Forsling remarked on Friday ahead of the 2024 NHL Draft.

Forsling praised Zibanejad, despite how the Panthers shut down down the Rangers and their star center in the Eastern Conference Final less than a month ago. Zibanejad did not score a goal and had just two assists in the series. Worse, he had a brutal OT turnover in Game 4 which resulted in a Panthers power play and subsequent goal to even the series at the time, 2-2.

Zibanejad, who most recently helped Sweden win the gold medal at the 2018 World Hockey Championship, does bring invaluable experience to the national team. His international success dates back to the 2012 World Junior Championship, when Sweden also claimed gold, and he’s played 74 career Stanley Cup Playoff games.

In contrast, Forsling has yet to showcase his talents at the senior international level, having only played for Sweden’s national junior team in 2015-16. 

But if anyone can bring a winning spirit to Sweden, it’s a Stanley Cup champion.

Related: United States coach says having Rangers’ Adam Fox on his side ‘will be comforting’

Rangers’ Mika Zibanejad among first 6 players selected for Sweden in 2025 tournament

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Apart from Zibanejad and Forsling, Sweden’s first six players include forwards Filip Forsberg (Nashville Predators) and William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs), and defensemen Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning) and Erik Karlsson (Pittsburgh Penguins).

“It’s hard to say but I think I like our chances,” Forsling said. “To be honest, I feel like we got a mix of everything … It’s gonna be challenging to win it all.”

Winning the best-on-best tournament won’t be easy, for sure.

Canada features immense star power in its first six players: Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Sidney Crosby (Penguins), Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar (both Colorado Avalanche), Brayden Point (Lightning) and Brad Marchand (Boston Bruins). Canada has the look of an absolute behemoth.

The United States is led by Rangers defenseman Adam Fox, who joins the first six with Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs), Matthew Tkachuk (Panthers), Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Jack Eichel (Vegas Golden Knights) and Charlie McAvoy (Bruins).

Finland, while the weakest on paper offensively, is a defensive juggernaut. Two-time Selke Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion Aleksander Barkov heads Finland’s first group of six, that includes Dallas Stars defensemen Miro Heiskanen and Esa Lindell, Predators goalie Juuse Saros, and forwards Sebastian Aho (Carolina Hurricanes) and Mikko Rantanen (Avalanche).

It’s been a whirlwind of a week for Forsling. The Panthers defenseman lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time earlier this week when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.

The magnitude of his recent success is not lost on the 28-year-old.

“It’s very surreal to be honest. Even the last week here, it’s been very emotional and it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Forsling said. “It’s nothing I take for granted. Something I’ve been working very hard for over the last couple of years here. Just very honored.”

The 4 Nations Face-Off will take place Feb. 15-20, 2025 at Bell Centre in Montreal and TD Garden in Boston.

Nick Palmer is a beat reporter and journalist specializing in NHL and MLB. Throughout his time at Fordham University's... More about Nick Palmer

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