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European Prospect Report: Lukas Vejdemo takes his game up another notch

The offence of both Lukas Vejdemo and Joni Ikonen began to click this week.

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All is good on the European continent, as everyone has at least a point in this week’s report. Joni Ikonen recorded three assists over two competitions. Arvid Henrikson got one assist, and the same for Max Friberg. But it was Lukas Vejdemo who posted the standout performance at home against Växjö in the SHL.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga (Finland)

Ikonen got to play a regular shift — while still being on the fourth line — against the Stavanger Oilers in Champions Hockey League action. His two assists came in the dying minutes of a 7-1 thrashing of the Norwegian team, and while not being scored in the more important parts of the game, they were important, being the first points for Ikonen at a pro level. With the start to the season that he has had, it must have been a good confidence boost.

He followed up the CHL performance by getting to play more minutes than in the last few Liiga games. His time on ice has increased by about half a minute on average in Liiga, while falling about the same in CHL play.

In the second game of the weekend, Ikonen managed to add another assist in his pro career. While points are important, the crucial thing for Ikonen’s development is to get more ice time from his head coach.

It will be interesting to see if Ikonen grabs this chance and starts building on something. KalPa is still stuck at the bottom of the Liiga standings, and if a change doesn’t happen within the team, Ikonen might be looking to play relegation hockey — one of the most intimidating things for a player to do — come the end of the season.

Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL (Sweden)

The emerging star of this season’s European Prospect Report is Djurgården’s Lukas Vejdemo. Two seasons ago he was in the top five for points among juniors in the SHL, and expectations were high.

Last season was a bit hit-and-miss as Vejdemo took control of the “Kindergarten” line with the Davidsson brothers. The big centre seems to be building up for another strong season.

Vejdemo has worked hard during the summer, and it has shown on the ice. Coach Roger Ohlsson trusts Vejdemo in many situations, and that’s raising the prospect’s confidence at this point of the season. He scored his second goal of the year at home against one of the favourites in the SHL: the Växjö Lakers.

And what a goal it was; a deft tip-in to decide the game that Djurgården won 2-1.

Eyes on the Prize reached Vejdemo after the game and asked him whether the biggest change for this season is that he has confidence.

“[Markus] Ljung is injured and I have been getting more responsibilities and that makes me grow [as a player],” he said humbly.

When asked about winning such an important game, even if it is early in the season, he isn’t as shy in his response.

“It felt great putting the deciding goal in the net!” he said, and laughed.

There has been an influx of former NHL and KHL players to Djurgården this season, and that has been important for his development as well.

“Of course you try and learn a bit from them. You look at what they do, how they do it, and what you can do to improve from those players.”

Learning from experienced players and building for the future, it is clear that Vejdemo is taking his game to the next level, and he is thriving in an extended role on the team.

Arvid Henrikson, Örebro U-20, SuperElite South, (Sweden)

In the few games played this week, Henrikson managed to get an assist on the 3-0 goal against Frölunda’s U20 team. While I haven’t been able to watch any games, I would have liked to see an increased point production from the defender. Montreal wants him to add to his offensive game, according to unconfirmed reports within the SHL community to Eyes On The Prize, and I would like to see him start performing with regards to that.

Two points in the U20 league as one of the oldest players is low even for a stay-at-home defender, and especially for one with an eye on a pro career.

Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL (Sweden)

New additions to the Frölunda roster, with both Lias Andersson and Carl Grundström returning from NHL training camps, will benefit Friberg a lot as he wont be thrown on different lines, and can get back to the trio that was used during the pre-season.

Friberg got an assist in the second game of the back-to-back meeting with Luleå.

Frölunda has a few games on the other teams as the SHL table is limping because of scheduling issues. The team has been practising heavily the last few weeks with two, and sometimes up to three, practices a day.

Frölunda peaked a little early last season, winning the CHL title but getting knocked out in the SHL semis after two seven-game series. This season everything is focused on winning the SHL once more, and to peak a little bit later of the season.