Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga (Finland)
The struggles continue for Joni Ikonen, not only in Liiga play but also at the junior level.
A person involved in the decision-making process of one of the participating teams from the recent WJC preview in Russia described Ikonen’s performance over two games as “unnoticeable.” It’s a damaging report to say the least, however Ikonen should still be able to claim a place on the Finnish WJC squad — the question is: in what role?
In Liiga this week, Ikonen was around his time on ice average, around 12 minutes, but he still has a tough time in the pro ranks. He loses the puck easily against tougher opposition, and what made him stand out among juniors — his touch and soft hands — seems to be a problem when the defenders are bigger and more experienced.
When Eyes On The Prize spoke to Lukas Vejdemo this past week, he mentioned that the step from juniors to a professional league is much bigger than many expect before they decide to take it, and that, in his experience, he was happy to have waited another year before taking the same step.
With two victories, KalPa managed to climb within striking distance (three points) of a wild-card berth in Liiga, and if they continue to climb it might ease the pressure on the coach and the players and give Ikonen a chance to shine in an increased role.
Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL (Sweden)
With Markus Ljungh returning to the lineup, Lukas Vejdemo has been demoted to the fourth line and special teams. However, it is clear to everyone watching that Coach Ohlsson trusts Vejdemo in most assignments: penalty kill, shutting down the best opposing line at even strength, as well as in situations when he has pulled the goaltender or is defending a lead at the end of the games. With the struggles that Djurgården is having on the power play, it may be time to try Vejdemo there, too.
In an interview for Eyes On The Prize, former Montreal Canadien Rene Bourque called Vejdemo one of Djurgården’s best players, and a certain NHLer. We were also fortunate to get a few words with Coach Ohlsson about Vejdemo after a recent game (you can listen to it below).
With the demotion it is tough to see Vejdemo continuing to contribute at the same pace that he has had so far, but to see how he can perform when given the chance to play on a top line should encourage the Canadiens development team and fans hoping for continuous progress.
Arvid Henrikson, Örebro U-20, SuperElite South, (Sweden)
The big defender got to make his SHL debut this week. While only playing 2:38, Henrikson was still in awe when he spoke with Örebro Hockey’s webcast after the game. He mentioned that it was special to make the debut at home, in front of a loud home crowd.
When Eyes On The Prize reached him he was happy for the trust shown by coach Sundblad, and he was hoping to prove himself to get more chances with the pro team.
Henrikson did say he is getting a lot of ice time with the junior team and that it benefits him massively. While he was grateful for the chance with the pro team, he said ice time was the most valuable thing for him at this stage of his development.
Being the fist defender called up when the team needed backup does point to the fact that Henrikson is indeed developing, and getting closer to a role with the pro team. It will be very interesting to see how he continues to make headway this season.
Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL (Sweden)
Frölunda and Friberg have continued their rollercoaster ride this season. This last week they have strengthened the squad with Mike Weber, formerly of the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild. The team hopes that the defender will bring stability at the back end.
With the return of Victor Olofsson and Carl Grundström to the lineup, Frölunda should be able to start playing better again.
Friberg was called on in the shootout against Djurgården, but failed his deke and still waits to find the net for the first time this season.