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European Prospect Report: Romanov helps his country win the Canada/Russia Series

Romanov enjoyed a bit of offence, and Jacob Olofsson continues to make progress in his own zone.

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Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

The Tsar went home to Russia with the trophy in hand after the Canada/Russia Series. The defenceman had a few minor penalties, but the good news is that he started to shoot a lot more in the last few games of the series, even scoring a game-winner with this snipe...

It goes without saying that this goal required a bit of luck and a lapse in tracking from the OHL goalie, but it seemed to have given confidence to the Habs defence prospect, who continued to have a good performance in the contest.

He was a solid element of the Russian back end, as he proved he could be in the last week of games. He was contributing with his physicality and, at times, with his ability to move the puck up the ice.

According to the broadcasters, Marc Bergevin was in attendance for the last Russia-OHL matchup. He must have been pleased with his draft choice. Romanov isn’t flashy. He rarely stands out — except when he is scoring goals from the neutral zone — but he is a brand of player that the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens knows well and can see value in for being, himself, a defence-first blue-liner.

That being said, Romanov is part of this new generation of great-skating defenders that are now ruling the NHL. He isn’t afraid to lay a crushing blow, but his usefulness is in how he can keep up with the play to be able to engage physically; closing the gap and adjusting against the quick, shifty forwards he faces.

The real highlight of that night for Romanov was this play:

In this sequences, Romanov stops an entry attempt while defending off the rush, separates the puck from a couple of forwards with good use of his body, shoulder-checks to read the forechecking pressure, and finds a teammate in the middle of the ice after a stickhandling move.

It wasn’t a perfect play, it could have been smoother, and not one that happened that often in the series, but it encapsulates what Romanov can bring to a team with his work ethic and when using his skills.

The series was a different experience for the prospect, and his last chance to showcase his talents before the World Junior Hockey Championship. Let’s hope he did enough to get an invite to patrol the Russian blue line.

In the meantime, CSKA has been a machine in the KHL while Romanov has been with the National Junior Team, and it will be interesting to see how he slots back in upon his return.

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

It was a player filled with a positive attitude who came back from the international break, and while Ylönen didn’t produce anything in terms of points, both his number of shots as well as his shot locations improved. The two games against Jukurit and HPK are shown below, and it is clear that Ylönen is working himself into better chances.

You can still see that he isn’t going straight for the net with his zone entries, but rather staying on the outside. In a recent interview with Eyes On The Prize, Ylönen stated his need to build up muscle, and it might change when he feels he has built up his body and gotten stronger to win the battles to go straight for the net.

However, on the Pelicans’ power-play unit, Ylönen’s position is in the middle of the 1-3-1 setup — where the single spot in the HPK graphic is — but with the lone forward in front of the goal rather than in the Gretzky position behind it. It’s a bit unfortunate, as Ylönen comes a bit far from the goal to tip in pucks and can’t really get his quick release into the play.

While Ylönen works his heart out to be between the two penalty-kill forwards, or just behind them, it means that he doesn’t get many chances to put the puck in the net. It does seem to leave the defenders having a smaller box and gives perimeter players on the Pelicans the option to get more time to get their shots off, so Ylönen is still very much involved in the play by creating space for his teammates.

Ylönen’s shot percentage is hovering around 7.5% and part of this is his shot location, but the average shot percentage for a forward in the NHL is around 9%. While players are better in NHL, goalies are as well, so hopefully Ylönen’s shot percentage starts to climb to a more standard level soon.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, SHL, Sweden

Having started the season strong, Timrå has started their fall in the table. Coach Andersson has adjusted his defensive scheme, and while the team played a close game for a long time against Malmö they couldn’t keep it up for the whole game.

Olofsson is anchoring the third line and is doing a good job. His defensive reads are getting better, and he is not getting dragged out of position as he did at the start of the season. Working on his defensive game unfortunately means he doesn’t get as many chances as one might have hoped for his offensive skills to shine. Yet when he does get the chance he shows off some good potential.

Olofsson played well but came up short in this week’s game against a stacked Djurgården team that has also gotten stronger with the addition of Axel Jonsson Fjällby on loan from the Washington Capitals. All three goals that Olofsson was on the ice for this week came in that game, and none of them could be faulted to Olofsson.

Olofsson is still doing better in than his team in most metrics.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

Injured in the off-season, he is expected to return at the end of December or early January.