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European Prospect Report: Alexander Romanov could stand to be a bit less conservative

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The defender is gaining confidence and ice time, but a bit more risk-taking could advance him to a new level.

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

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

The Russian team went to Vienna for a mid-week game against Dinamo Riga in the second series of the World Games this season. While The Tsar didn’t score any points, he was very much involved in the game. He tallied up six shots and led the team in hits with two.

The following was the most impressive one. It is not the first massive hit we have seen from Romanov this fall. When Trevor Timmins mentioned Romanov’s physical game at the draft, he wasn’t overselling the Russian defender.

Romanov played a season-high 15:49 in the game, and while he is still out of the special-teams assignments he should be getting confidence from Coach Nikitin with his play.

He still plays it a bit too safe at times, as you can see here when CSKA breaks out of defensive zone. Rather than continue to push forward, Romanov stops at the blue line with a huge area in front of him, where the the puck also ends up as his teammate thinks Romanov will continue on. Since Romanov has stopped, the loose puck becomes a turnover. Sometimes the best defence is a good offence, and this is where Romanov needs to improve most at the moment.

The offensive struggles also come from the fact that he does not have the best stick technique at times, and once more he is taking the safe option in some instances. He’d rather pass than take the shot.

Still, Romanov is getting more and more time in the offensive zone, and overall that should further his development in those areas of the game. It is understandable that in those instances Romanov would rather play defensively sound. It’s what his coach is asking of him, and in that role Romanov stands securely as he does after a big hit.

With two big games from Romanov, his average time on ice climbs over the 10-minute mark, even with only playing close to nine minutes in a close game in the Moscow derby against Spartak. It was the kind of game that Romanov would have played three to five minutes at the start of the season, now he is getting close to 10, and that is most definitely the best way of showing his improvement and development rather than to look at the stat line for points.

The preliminary squads for the WJC will be picked this week in Europe and I don’t see Russia going to Canada without The Tsar in tow.

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

Jesse Ylönen notched up another assist this week, as the Pelicans only played two games. In those two contests Ylönen played around 15 minutes and was a little bit sheltered by his coach. It is easy to see the improvement on the defensive side of the puck, and I am a bit confused why Coach Ville Nieminen doesn’t use Ylönen’s speed for breakouts or zone entries more.

The assist came on just such a speedy zone entry, however via Ylönen’s stick, He uses some incredible hand-eye coordination to get the puck down and onto the goalie who can’t hold it, and it’s a tap-in for Taavi Vartiainen.

Ylönen has been selected for the preliminary squad for Finlands WJC challenge.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, SHL, Sweden

It seems Jacob Olofsson has become a player that Coach Andersson uses very differently depending on the situation in the game. While the centreman gets his chances on the second power-play unit, and he gets his offensive zone use when the game is on the line, he also seems to be used in a more defensive role when Timrå chases the game and Coach Andersson relies a bit more on the top two lines. Another thing that is factoring into Olofsson’s usage is that Timrå is currently struggling with injuries and has had to use players in different roles than they are used to.

Olofsson should be included among Coach Montén’s first selections for the WJC in Canada. That selection should be presented on Wednesday, December 5.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

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