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European Prospect Report: Joni Ikonen breaks his duck

A weekly update on the Montreal Canadiens prospects playing overseas.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga (Finland)

The duck was finally broken. In Ikonen’s 27th game of the season, he got his first league goal of his pro career.

It came from a nice shot from within the faceoff circle where he controlled the puck and turned to fire a quick shot that fooled the goalkeeper during a delayed penalty call.

Gif credit: Alex Nunn

The goal came against Ässet, and he later added an assist in the same game. He took several coasting defenders to get a shot off, and Mathew Maione tapped in the rebound. Even if the defence was sloppy, Ikonen kept control of the puck and got it to the net.

Gif credit: Alex Nunn

This was followed up by a brace of goals from Ikonen as KalPa thrashed former Montreal prospect Joonas Nättinen’s JYP five goals to nil the next day.

These four points over two games increased Ikonen’s season production 200%. The main change seems to be that the shots are coming from the high-danger area in front of the net, whereas previously his shots usually came from the perimeter and far away from the goal. If you look at the shot map you can see that the shots he took in the past week were launched from much closer to the net.

Joni Ikonen’s shot location versus JYP (left) and Ässet (right), darker colour indicates goals.

The offence is increasing, but there is a lot of work still to be done for Ikonen to step into to a bigger role.

This is apparent in the clip of the assist above. It was a play that we have seen a lot from Ikonen this season. Usually the puck has moved away from him, and while on this particular play the bounce goes his way, he doesn’t get a stable stance on the ice. A more interested defender would have taken either him or the puck out of the equation.

Still, this is a big deal, there’s no longer a zero in his goals column, and hopefully this offensive outburst creates a lot of confidence for the second half of the season; both for himself but also for the coach to start trusting him more.

I’ll continue to use Alexandre Texier as an example for Ikonen this season, as they were not drafted far apart and play on the same team, therefore negating the fact that it is a low-scoring team this season. Texier added two goals himself this week, but Ikonen took huge steps forward to make the comparison interesting for the rest of the season.

The two multi-point games from Ikonen come at a very important part of the season. Just before the WJC squads begin to be finalized, the performance makes a statement to coach Jussi Ahokas, who will be determining Ikonen’s role on Team Finland.

Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL (Sweden)

Again Vejdemo works his heart out every shift, every night. He was rewarded this week with two assists.

Vejdemo works hard along the boards, and his hands do seem to have become faster too, which allowed him to set up the following goal:

Vejdemo works hard behind the net to set up Markus Ljung for the goal.

While his offence has suffered a bit from a move down the order, he will beat his career-best season total of 17 points any week now. With the SHL not stopping for the Olympics, Djurgården will rely on Vejdemo to once more step up into a larger role and lead the team when some of the bigger names go away to Pyeongchang to fight for gold medals.

With less than half the season done, Vejdemo is well on his way to a very impressive SHL campaign, especially considering the more defensive role he plays.

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

There was one game for Henrikson, who still continues to draw heavy minutes on the U20 team. Örebro has played with just six defenders the last couple of games, and I am surprised that Henrikson has not been called up a second time, though he himself says that he’d rather play heavy minutes in the junior ranks than playing odd minutes in the SHL.

Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL (Sweden)

No big impact form Friberg in Frölunda this week, though not for a lack of effort. The dynamo buzzes and works ever so hard, but it does not show up on the scoresheet.