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European Prospect Report: Joni Ikonen facing growing pains

Our weekly look at the Habs prospects overseas

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

While the Montreal Canadiens are still in the pre-season, the regular season has started for some Habs prospects in Europe. Here’s a look at their week.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga (Finland)

The move to the Finnish top division has not been as smooth as many, and I would assume Ikonen himself, expected. It does not help that KalPa is struggling in the Liiga at the moment. The team is in 11th place and that would put them into the relegation series at the moment.

Ikonen’s week started off with quite a bit of ice time against one of the top teams, Kärpät. He registered 13:01 in a game that KalPa lost 3-1. The last two games of the week, against Lukko and Ässet, was tougher for the rookie with 6:01 minutes against Lukko and 9:38 against Ässet.

While the drop in TOI is alarming, it is important to know that he plays in a pro league and it’s a steep learning curve for Ikonen.

Eyes On The Prize’s Mitch Brown had a thread on Twitter which offered some insight to Ikonens struggles. Mitch points out that Ikonen struggles most with neutral zone control and that what likely worked in junior hockey doesn’t work in a pro league, making him look careless. Ikonen is a young prospect, and it should be expected to see some growing pains.

I would not be surprised if Ikonen plays a few games with the Junior team as the World Juniors approach so he could prove that he deserves a spot on the Flinland U20 team that looks to improve on last year's tournament.

Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL (Sweden)

Vejdemo has had a few good games. The young line that Vejdemo is leading is usually going all in and plays with a lot of speed which is a good thing. Unfortunately, that same youthful energy has caused them to be drawn out of place when they have had to play in their own zone. Vejdemo was caught out of position for one goal but continues to have coach Ohlsson’s confidence and has played heavy minutes in all SHL games so far.

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

The big defender’s move to Örebro might not have had the desired effect for his progress so far. Örebro has struggled in the U20 series in a similar way to AIK U20 last season. They have suffered a few heavy losses and while Henrikson hasn’t been on the ice for most of the goals against, his name has appeared a few times too many in the box scores for minor infractions.

While Henrikson wants to go to the WJC, I see him too far behind the other players on a stacked Sweden defensive corps such as Rasmus Dahlin, Adam Boqvist, Filip Westerlund, and others. Add in the fact that he doesn’t play at the senior level and doesn’t even seem close to taking that step and it will be a tough sell for Henrikson to make the team.

Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL (Sweden)

Friberg had two assists this week as he continues to adjust to the Swedish league and a system of play that is very different from where he play last season. Frölunda has struggled partly because Lias Andersson (New York Rangers) and Carl Grundström (Toronto Maple Leafs) are at NHL camps, and also because the defensive zone play has been a bit all over the place.

“Not even Henrik Lundqvist could have helped us today because the defence was so bad,” said Frölunda coach Roger Rönnberg, illustrating the team's struggles after a 7-4 loss to Färjestad.

While Friberg played well offensively in the pre-season but the entire Frölunda team seems to have lost their game just in time for start of the the regular season.

Friberg still works hard every shift and while he is focusing on his new team, he told EOTP that he still dreams of the NHL.

“I have a contract with Frölunda. My aim is to become an even better hockey player. If that leads to another shot at NHL it would be a dream, but right now its all in for Frölunda,” he said.