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European Prospect Report: Joni Ikonen returns from the World Junior Hockey Championship a more determined player

A weekly update on the Montreal Canadiens prospects playing overseas.

2017 World Junior Summer Showcase

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

After an underwhelming performance in the World Junior Hockey Championship, Joni Ikonen returned to play in his native Liiga this week. Ikonen seems to have taken the disappointing exit for the Finnish team the right way, and has earned a heavier load than he was receiving before he left.

Ikonen crowned his return to Liiga with this stellar shift; taking control of the puck deep in his own zone and exiting the zone with control. While the finish could have been better, he got his own rebound to set up the goal in the end and got a well-deserved assist.

The increased play time should be the most encouraging thing to look at in regards to Ikonen’s development. Increased confidence and production should come after that. It is promising to see Ikonen taking a lot of the play he exhibited with Frölunda’s U20s last year and using it the same way in Liiga.

While Alexandre Texier is out injured, I will keep the comparison going, it is still interesting as they are drafted a few places apart and the fact they play for the same team in Liiga makes for a good comparison throughout the season.

Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL, Sweden

Coach Ohlsson continues to move Vejdemo around the lineup, and that’s a problem. While Vejdemo is playing well no matter the situation, he rarely gets a chance to build chemistry with his linemates. The constant shuffling is in part due to former Montreal Canadien Andreas Engqvist being out with a concussion.

Vejdemo continues to work hard, and if he had a better shot he would have built on his points totals.

Djurgården is second in the SHL standings and will have to lean heavier on Vejdemo during the Olympics as Rene Bourque will leave the team and suit up for Team Canada.

Arvid Henrikson, Örebro U-20, SuperElite, Sweden

Henrikson is fighting with Örebro to make it into the U20 playoffs, much as he did last season when he played for AIK. He has also been moved around a bit in the team, but still gets time on the top pair.

It will be difficult for Henrikson to make an impact in the SHL as Örebro is getting injured players back into the team at the moment. My belief is therefore that Henrikson will finish his season in the U20 league.

Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Frölunda isn’t firing on all cylinders, but are still third in the SHL, and that’s saying something. Frölunda just brought in the Slovenian Jan Mursak (formerly of Detroit Red Wings property and CSKA Moscow player) which has created a bit of a logjam among the forward positions. Coach Rönnberg sees this as an opportunity to play more forwards around 10 to15 minutes per game to hopefully be able to benefit Frölunda come playoff time.

Swedish Olympic Selection

With Sweden’s Olympic Roster being named on Tuesday, January 16, there is a lot of speculation around the team and whom it will feature.

The biggest discussion focuses on whether Rasmus Dahlin and Elias Pettersson will be included or not.

When I asked Pettersson this weekend about it, his answer was “Oh no, not that question again,” so I quickly moved on.

However, there is a case for both of the young players to go. They are both bringing that extra element that many in Sweden think the veterans lack on paper. It will be interesting to see how Rikard Grönborg picks his team in what looks like a chance to make an impression on the North American teams. He isn’t shy about his wish to go to North America and coach at the next level when his contract runs out with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association.