Joonas Nättinen, JYP
JYP dismissed SaiPa in six games to make the semi-finals of the Liiga playoffs. The team will face the IFK Helsingfors in the next round. It will be a tough matchup as HIFK won the regular-season title, but Nättinen can take heart that they didn't really impress in their quarter-final win.
Nättinen hasn't been receiving an offensive role during the playoffs. I caught Sunday's game and he was played more in a shutdown capacity; something that his stats show. Still this season has been nothing but a success for the man that has played the least amount of time for the Montreal Canadiens in franchise history.
I was not impressed with him in Modo last year, but returning home has made him blossom. With call-ups to the national team, and scoring his first goal for the Leijonat as well, Nättinen's season gets an A-.
Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården
After going out to a superior Frölunda squad in the SHL quarter-finals, Vejdemo and Djurgården decided to go for their second U20 championship in a row, sending down all eligible players to the junior team. Vejdemo was slotted onto the first line, centring Fredrik Forsberg and Johan Järlefelt. Reports say that it was the best line on the ice, and Vejdemo ended up with an assist in the final.
The season is now finished for the young Swede. When he came into the season he was an unknown commodity, but he finishes the season on a high, having played all games in the SHL regular and post-season for his Djurgården. He will head over to Montreal for the development camp this summer, but will benefit form another year in the SHL.
It will be interesting to see what the Top 25 Under 25 panel thinks about his development. He will very likely move up from his 21st-place finish last year. I don't think that Vejdemo could have had a better season in his dreams. I grade him with a B+.
Magnus Nygren, Färjestad
Färjestad was knocked out by Luleå in the SHL quarter-finals, and while most games were tight, it felt like Färjestad was never really close to taking control of that series. While Färjestad has been too inconsistent with regards to their play over the season, the first goal was achieved by making the playoffs again (after missing out for the first time in eons last year).
Nygren has sometimes been alone in his performance for the team, but the display after coming back from such a severe concussion has been nothing but outstanding. Nygren will now be looking ahead to the forthcoming World Championships in Russia, but looking at the teams that will miss the playoffs in the NHL, he'll be competing with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Erik Karlsson, who might want to come home to play in the tournament before the World Cup.
Overall Nygren has done everything that was expected of him, even when the team hasn't been as good as the experts (or me) expected them to be before the season started. He has delivered a complete performance, and gets an A-.
Artturi Lehkonen, Frölunda
Lehkonen was obviously the star of the show in Frölunda's series win over Djurgården, scoring five goals, including two game-winners, and the series-winning goal in Game Five. He leads all players that have qualified for the semi-finals in points with eight, and shadows Lukas Wallmark (a Carolina Hurricanes prospect) who has six goals in the post-season.
I reached out to Lukas Vejdemo for a comment in regards to Lehkonen's performance in the quarterfinals, Vejdemo replied: "Lehkonen flew around all through the quarterfinals and was in my honest opinion the best player in Frölunda. He is smart, sly [like a fox] and always at the right position and he is an insanely good finisher."
It remains to be seen if those two top-end prospects will go head-to-head in the semi-final between Frölunda and Luleå. Last year Frölunda won that matchup in seven games, staging an epic comeback from down three games to one.
In regards to his season, Lehkonen has out-performed all expectations, taking a huge leap forward in his development. The question is if he even needs a stint in the AHL when he moves across the ocean. Lehkonen gets an A+, and the season couldn't be improved upon, even if he makes the Leijonat selection for the World Championships.
Martin Réway, Fribourg-Gottéron
Nothing new to report on the Réway front. He is supposedly still in Slovakia keeping things together.
Expectations were high on Réway for the season. He started great, and his transition to the Swiss NLA went well, but he slowed down as the season wore on. It's not known if this was due to the intensity of the game, his physicality, or illness. He started to slow down before sustaining a concussion, and he never really gained the coach's confidence when coming back.
It will be great to see Réway in the World Championships in St Petersburg and Moscow, and he has a great chance of raising his grade in that tournament, but right now he lands at a B-.