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European Prospect Report: Joni Ikonen’s improved confidence leads to a three-point night

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After telling us about how he was feeling much more comfortable in professional hockey, Ikonen put together one of his best performances of the year.

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Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

With playoffs around the corner in Europe, this week is the last of the regular season. Things are heating up and it will be interesting to follow most of the prospects in the playoffs in both Finland and Sweden.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

What stands out in this week’s report is obviously Joni Ikonen’s three-point night, but maybe more important is that his time on ice has increased by almost 30 seconds per game over the last two weeks, from 11:48 to 12:15. This points to the added confidence Ikonen has in himself, and the improvement that coach Sami Kapanen mentions in our interview with him in regards to Ikonen’s development.

Last year’s second-round selection has now reached 500 faceoffs taken in Liiga during his first pro season with KalPa, and even while starting out slow he now has a 48.3% success rate. While the numbers might not be the best, it is important to know that they have been improving steadily throughout the season.

Ikonen’s three-point night came against the Pelicans from Lahti. The first assist was nice, winning the draw clean and then working to get himself in front of the net to make it hard for the goalkeeper. But it was Ikonen’s superb effort and skill that were on display for the second assist:

The third assist came on the power play where he quarterbacked the play and helped set up a slapshot from the blue line for the game-winner.

When comparing Alexandre Texier and Ikonen, the main thing that stands out, now that Ikonen’s time on ice is starting to improve quite heavily, is the shot frequency. Texier, as a winger, is a veritable shot machine, whereas Ikonen seems to be a bit further from the goal. It might be that Ikonen needs another boost of confidence with a goal or two to really improve in that area as well.

Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården, SHL, Sweden

While the last few games haven’t been good for Vejdemo pointwise, he has been charged with the responsibility of covering the opposing team’s best line. It’s not a job that comes easy in the SHL, but Vejdemo has taken that responsibility full-on. It will probably be a role he has to take during a deep playoff run with a Djurgården team that looks poised to finish in the top two of the table.

Unfortunately, Vejdemo’s strong start to the season hasn’t carried through the entire year. Still, with a few inspired games and a bounce or two in the right direction in the final matches, Vejdemo could finish top three in points in Djurgården this season, as he’s not far back in the sixth position at the moment.

Arvid Henrikson, Örebro U-20, SuperElite, Sweden

Henrikson added an assist since the last update. The big defender is certainly looking forward to the playoffs where his more physical play can be used as an advantage.

I am still excited about a draft prospect in Örebro named Lukas Pilö. He has had a few games in the SHL as well this season, and is someone to keep an eye on for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Max Friberg, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

With an injury to sharpshooter Ryan Lasch in Frölunda, Friberg has gotten the chance to play on the top line with Joel Lundqvist and Sabres prospect Victor Olofsson. While it has benefited Friberg’s ice time, and no one can fault his work ethic, he isn’t really fit for that role. My guess is, after talking to Lasch on Saturday, that Friberg is just a placeholder in that position. Unfortunately it might dampen Olofsson’s chance to win the goal-scoring title in the SHL as Lasch has been a great setup man.

For the playoffs, Friberg will probably fall down the lineup to his regular spot on the third or fourth line.