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European Prospect Report: Canadiens properties hope to turn this season’s progress into playoff performance

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The real games are about to begin for Montreal’s overseas prospects.

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Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

With the regular season finishing this weekend, we take a look towards the playoffs for the European prospects.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

The regular season finished on a high, with a goal and more time on the ice for Joni Ikonen. It is safe to say that his first goal for the season has been achieved: getting to play in the post-season. While Ikonen’s personal achievement hasn’t been spectacular, he has pushed himself to gain the experience needed.

Ikonen’s TOI has increased steadily over the season, and he finishes at a respectable 12:20 over the whole season. Not bad for a first-year pro.

His point production is quite low, however it is important to know that KalPa has the fourth-lowest scoring in the whole of Liiga, even if they finished sixth in the 15-team table. Ikonen’s 14 points (4+10) gives him a 0.27 points-per-game average. He has been directly involved in 10% of KalPa’s goals for the season, which is something to consider. He finished off his regular season with a great snipe on the power play.

KalPa will play as underdog against Tappara in the Liiga playoffs. It’s a tough draw and I can’t really see KalPa going through.

Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL, Sweden

A great start for the Swedish centre was hampered by injuries to the Djurgården team and a reshuffle of the lines. They conspired to have Vejdemo drop in point-production, but he also claimed the role of shutdown centre, playing tough minutes usually against the opposing team’s best lines and on the penalty kill.

Still, this really should stand as a breakout season for the big Swede. It is clear that he has gained confidence, and that his teammates are really impressed with him. Former Canadien and Olympic bronze medallist René Bourque said that “[Vejdemo] has been one of our key players both defensively and offensively,” and “[Montreal] will really like him; he will play in NHL for sure” when he spoke with Eyes On The Prize in December.

The fact is Lukas Vejdemo is so important to a Djurgården team that finished second in the SHL that he was rested for the last week of the season. In a conversation with Vejdemo, he told us that it was a precaution and that he needed a rest for a small injury.

It is clear that Vejdemo is important for one of the main challengers for the Le Mat Trophy in the playoffs, and that Coach Ohlsson really values him as he rests him before the big push for the championship.

Djurgården will face one of the wildcards in their first round of the playoffs, and anything but the final will be a disappointment for a team that has its sights set on the trophy, even if some teams seem to have gained a gear just ahead of the playoffs.

Arvid Henrikson, Örebro U-20, SuperElite, Sweden

It is fair to have expected a lot more from Henrikson this year. Örebro has qualified for the U20 playoff, but Henrikson’s own stat line isn’t much to write home about. The only two things that stands out is the +/- and 44 minutes in the box.

The playoffs might suit the big defender better, and a tough draw against Linköping will really be a place where Henrikson will have to prove himself.

Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Frölunda finished third in the SHL and it is being viewed as a bit of a failure for the club. You’d have to wonder what former IceCaps captain Max Friberg thinks about his season.

While his numbers has been “okay,” as he says himself, the former scorer (in World Juniors) has become a workhorse. He has been shifted up and down the lineup and gotten a more defensive role to work with. While still being a pat of the Canadiens organization it is tough to see him getting another chance in the NHL.

Frölunda will play Malmö in their first matchup in the playoffs, and Frölunda should go through and set up a match up with Vejdemos Djurgården in the semifinal.