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European Prospect Report: Jesse Ylönen and Alexander Romanov thrive in return from WJC

The European prospects are back home after a mostly successful WJC, and Joni Ikonen is about to return to the ice.

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Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

The gold-medal-winner received special attention when he returned to the ice in Finland, introduced to the crowd before the game against KalPa.

He brought some confidence with him from the World Junior Hockey Championship and played almost 16 minutes in each of the two games this week, recording an assist on the opening goal in the 5-0 rout of Kookoo. After two wins, the Pelicans are now fourth in the Liiga table and look poised for a playoff run, where they would benefit from Ylönen’s speed and increased confidence.

Previously, Ylönen would have turned away from the goal toward the corner, yet in the game against Kookoo he went the other direction. He could have driven harder toward the net, but it shows his evolution as a player.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

Of course, CSKA, and Russia, couldn’t miss the opportunity to honour the best defender at the World Juniors, and it was a shy Alexander Romanov at the centre of attention in CSKA’s pre-game show before he sat and signed autographs during the two intermissions.

In the only game that Romanov participated in this week, he played over 15 minutes and was used more offensively than he was before the WJC. His evolution was clearly visible and the confidence he gained while playing against his peers was obvious. Just look at this play below. Before the U20 championship, he would have taken the easy way out, yet here he opts for the more difficult one.

I reached out to CSKA’s Swedish netminder, Lars Johansson, to get a few words about Romanov’s development this season, and Johansson didn’t hold back his praise, except when speaking about the defender’s weaknesses, where all I got was a “someone else has to tell you that.”

“He has been very good for us this year, and I am not surprised at all. He is a humble and good guy with great potential. He is good on his feet and good with the puck. While I don’t know his scoring output in the World Juniors, I have understood he made a good impression. He has great vision, and he is good offensively, so it doesn’t surprise me that he made a great impact.”

Reading between the lines, it seems that Romanov has showcased his offensive talent during the CSKA practices, and with the difference in usage in the one game after the WJC, maybe The Tsar will get a chance to showcase his talent on KHL rinks as well.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

I spoke with KalPa coach Sami Kapanen this past Thursday and asked about Joni Ikonen’s recovery process. Mr Kapanen replied that, “Joni’s recovery has gone as planned and he’ll play soon.” When asked how soon, coach Kapanen was a bit cagey, but relented and said, “He’ll probably be in our lineup next week.”

When looking at KalPa’s home page, it seems that Ikonen has added a few inches and pounds since last season, and it will be very interesting to see what he can do when he finally returns to the ice. While expectations needs to be tempered, KalPa can really use an injection that a healthy skilled player can bring as they fight for the last playoff spot in Liiga.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, SHL, Sweden

After a disappointing World Juniors, Olofsson returned to a team that looks solidified in the bottom of the table. Still Timrå gives everything in every game, and lost two close contests this week. However Olofsson only played in the first of last week’s games, and we have no information to why he watched over Saturday’s game against Skellefteå.