Sweden -- with its chemistry, depth, talent and consistency -- is the team to beat at World Cup

GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Team USA needs to decide which goalie will be its No. 1 starter.

Team Canada has some questions on defense.

Team North America is loaded with dynamic and exciting young talent but lacks veteran leadership.

The Russians haven't had much success on the international scale of late.

Team Europe is a group of players without a country.

Finland also has to settle on its starting goaltender.

The Czechs have been slashed with injuries to key players.

So what are the issues for Team Sweden? Absolutely nothing.

The Swedes, fresh off a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, are solid in every aspect of the game. Its chemistry, depth, talent and consistency are four reasons Team Sweden will win the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.

It's more than just a gut-check prediction.

Each of these eight teams in this tournament are loaded with the best players in the world, so it shouldn't take long for every team to mesh during training camp. But after scouting Team Sweden for the first three days of camp, it's as though this group has been playing together forever. In some cases, many of these players have, especially on the international level. The majority of this roster played in the last Olympics, and combined its players have 815 games with the national team.

There's a calm demeanor about Sweden. Its players collectively ooze a quiet confidence.

"Obviously, we want to win it," said forward Nicklas Backstrom. "Ultimately, that's our goal. We're striving for that, but we know there are a lot of good teams out there, so we really have to play our best."

There's no blah-blah-blah to this team's chemistry.

"It's huge," Backstrom said. "If you look at teams that have been successful, it's always the team that really gets together and plays as a team. It's so important. We've got to get everything together. It's been good so far, but we're starting games [Thursday], so it'll be interesting."

Henrik Lundqvist is the No. 1 goalie now and for the foreseeable future, until he decides to give up his throne. Coach Rikard Gronborg can still be flexible with his lines and defensive pairings, but things appear pretty much set. Special teams looked fantastic during the first week of training camp. The players are focused and jovial as they prepare for a pair of preseason games against Finland on Thursday and Saturday before both teams travel to Washington, D.C., to continue the World Cup pre-tournament season.

Sweden is the poster child for consistency -- and conformity.

"Everyone knows their role from the get-go," said defenseman Victor Hedman. "We had a couple of meetings during August in Stockholm and went through the way we want to play and who's going to play where, so we had time to prepare. It's on everyone to bring their best to every game. That's something we're really looking forward to, and we'll try to play at our best when the World Cup starts."

It starts in net.

Lundqvist, who will not play in the first pre-tournament game against Finland, has been working hard in practice. He's been getting plenty of reps and is fighting for every puck, even those third and fourth chances during drills. There was some concern that he could miss time after he took a puck to the ribs in practice last week, but he said he will play through the soreness because it doesn't affect his game.

It's likely he will play in the second pre-tournament game against Finland on Saturday at Scadinavium in Gothenburg. There's no doubt he's focused on the task at hand.

"This past month, I've been skating harder than I've done before just to prepare for this and prepare for the new season with the New York Rangers. I feel like it's an important year," Lundqvist said.

Sweden's special teams are potent. The first power-play unit features Loui Eriksson, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin, along with defensemen Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. If that lineup doesn't scare you, Sweden follows with forwards Backstrom, Patric Hornqvist, Gabriel Landeskog and Filip Forsberg, with Anton Stralman running the back end. And don't be surprised to see Karlsson play the majority of the minutes on the power play because of his striking offensive ability.

A major strength for Sweden is its ability to control the puck. These players are known for their hockey sense and can slow the game down and turn it into a thinking person's game. Eriksson is a master at doing this, and playing alongside the Sedins should allow him to make it even more difficult on his opponents.

Each day after practice, Sweden's centers have worked on faceoffs for more than 30 minutes. A team with such strong puck-possession skills needs to control faceoffs.

"Well, we recognized -- when we sat down and looked at our faceoff percentage last year for our centermen in the National Hockey League -- [that] it's obviously not very good," Gronborg said. "It's a big emphasis for us. And in a puck-possession game, there's no better way to gain possession of the puck than to win the faceoffs. It would be stupid for us not to work on it and emphasize it in practice, so that's what we're trying to do."

Before training camp, Sweden's roster took a hit, losing captain Henrik Zetterberg, goalie Robin Lehner, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Alexander Steen. Replacments were forwards Rickard Rakell, Mikael Backlund, goalie Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Hampus Lindholm. Backlund and Lindholm will not dress for the first pre-tournament game against Finland, Gronborg announced Wednesday.

Even as Sweden prepares to compete on the international stage, the memory of its loss to Canada in the gold-medal game in Sochi is still fresh. Despite their professed one-game-at-a-time mentality, there's no doubt the Swedes would love another shot against Canada.

"Everybody who comes here, everybody who sits here, wants to win," Karlsson said. "We don't want to go to have fun and not win. We want to go there have fun, play hard and win. That rubs off on the rest of the people in our nation, and they're starting to expect it as well."

Despite the underdog classification, Karlsson said it wouldn't be a surprise if Sweden beat Canada. In fact, you can't consider Sweden a long shot. It's the top team in the tournament.

"We've beaten them before and we can beat them," Karlsson said. "We know we can beat them. If we do, which I hope we do, if it ever comes down to it, it won't be a shock, but it would definitely be a big thing."