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European Prospect Report: Jesse Ylönen puts in his best performance of the season

Unfortunately the news isn’t so good for Alexander Romanov in this week’s prospect update.

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2018 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

The Finnish forward had a roller-coaster week. On Tuesday, Ylönen was named to the Finnish World Juniors team (which left three roster spots open). On Wednesday, he scored an assist (his fourth of the season). He had arguably one of the worst games I have seen him have on Friday. Then he had the best game of his Liiga career on Saturday.

Let’s start from the top. Finland has a good team named for the WJC, and Ylönen should be included on the final roster. Of course, Finland is still holding out hope that certain players that are part of an NHL organization can join, and has left open spots for players like Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Eeli Tolvanen, and Kristian Vesalainen to join a team that looks set to challenge the North American teams for gold.

In Wednesday’s game against HPK, Ylönen got an assist on a swift pass and redirection from just inside the blue line:

Then on Friday, he played an atrocious game against JYP. He was hardly noticeable even if he played on the first power-play unit. There was nothing against his work ethic — he worked hard on the forecheck and did the best he could in defence — but rather the fact that he looked out of place.

He has great skating, but he is limited in his defensive end and looks to be thinking too hard on his job, and has to look for the reads rather than having them come naturally. His work ethic helps, but sometimes it also makes him fall out of sync with the rest of his unit.

Come Saturday and everything had changed, albeit against the worst team in Liiga this season: Ässät. Ylönen worked hard, and with his line managing to pin the opposition into their own end, his skating drew penalties.

He got an assist on a power-play goal where he went in to help win the faceoff, and scored on a tip-in from inside the slot. He also managed to draw another penalty in the dying seconds in overtime.

Ylönen missed his first shootout attempt but was keen to get another shot at it, and scored with ease to win the game the second time around. He finished the game with a career-high 21:20 of ice time, and had the goal and assist along with the shootout-winner.

With the international break coming up in Europe, the Channel One Cup (formerly known as Izvestia) will be held next week. It is the last game that Ylönen will play before he plays with Finland in the games leading up to the WJC.

After half a season in Liiga, it can be interesting to do a simple analysis based on points per game with some other notable Finnish players in Liiga in their draft-plus-one year. Joni Ikonen finished last season with 0.21 PPG and Artturi Lehkonen had 0.61 PPG in his D+1 season. Currently Ylönen is right in the middle of those two players with 0.38 PPG. While it is tough to draw comparisons to the different players, it does point to the fact that Ylönen has some work to do before he is ready for the NHL.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

Romanov started the week with a great effort against Sochi when he was trusted with close to 18 minutes of time on ice, and that’s still without any special teams play. The young defender looked solid out on the ice in a game that CSKA controlled from start to finish.

The second game of the week looked to be going the same way during the start of the first period. Romanov was included in the play and was his usual steady self.

Then disaster struck.

It seemed to be a normal hockey play — a forecheck by an Avangard Omsk player — and Romanov was thrown into the boards. He got up fast and skated off the ice by himself, but didnt play any more that game. Nor did he participate in Sunday’s game against Salavat Yulaev.

Earlier this week, Romanov was picked to Russia’s preliminary squad for the World Junior Championship in Canada. Whether Romanov was rested as a precaution or because of a serious injury remains to be seen. CSKA has not replied to requests for an update.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, SHL, Sweden

It’s a tough situation for Olofsson and Timrå at the moment. While starting the season on a high, the tempo and physicality seem to be taking a toll on the team. They have fallen into the danger zone where relegation is a real possibility at the end of the season, and Olofsson gets a tough deal to centre the third line of a struggling club. What is good is that the big centre is keeping up his usage and he is still relatively close compared his team in the different analytical metrics.

Olofsson will look forward to the World Junior Championship as well. We received a few words from Swedish coach Tomas Montén about Olofsson’s role that you can listen to in the latest Eyes On The Prize podcast, Habsent Minded.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

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