Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL) / CSK VVS Samara (VHL), Russia
Others might have more prominent stat lines this week, but playing all three games for Neftekhimik on the Eastern European road trip and adding an assist — his first point of the season — means that the Firestarter gets highlighted in this report.
Khisamutdinov wears #40 in Neftekhimik.
Arsen Khisamutdinov with his fist KHL point of the season, a backhand assist right to the front of the net. #Habs #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/kIvEc3VNA9— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) October 9, 2019
He started the season in the VHL, the second tier in Russia, and has worked hard to get into a regular spot in the KHL, albeit one of the worst teams at the moment. After the call-up, he has finally played three games in a row, with increasing ice time.
He works hard in the corners, but the Montreal Canadiens’ Russian scout worked the draft team hard to select the player for more reasons than that. In the games I have seen, he has skills, too. He has soft hands and a good hockey IQ. He is also a shot machine, and with increased confidence he should get a goal fairly soon.
Hopes for Khisamutdinov are tempered, and he would definitely need time in AHL unless he becomes the breakout star of the KHL this year, but the seventh-round pick is starting to make a name for himself.
Frederik Dichow, Malmö U20, SuperElite, Sweden
The Danish goalie was rested for the first game of the week, one Malmö won 6-2, but was in net for Malmö’s 5-2 loss to the Växjö Lakers. Växjö got a short-handed goal at the start, and then when Malmö had to chase the game at the end of the third period Dichow was left to cover a lot by himself.
Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden
The young defender really could have added to his goal tally, and should have had an assist in the game I saw live against Kristianstad on Friday. Norlinder doesn’t seem to do assists anymore, but he was upset about it after the game, I can tell you that much.
In his only other game, he showcased what he has become known for among Canadiens fans as he added to his goal tally.
Mattias Norlinder with yet another goal, his fifth of the season! #Habs #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/BiclGk8TxH— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) October 9, 2019
When we spoke with Coach Hellqvist after the game, he said that he wasn’t envious of national U20 coach Tomas Montén, but is confident in his player’s ability to make the team.
“I don’t see another Swedish defender with the same offensive upside as Norlinder that could make the WJC squad. However, you never know the full thoughts of a national team coach.”
The first indication of Coach Montén’s thoughts should be clear when he presents the team for the Four Nations tournament that will be held in Finland from November 8-10.
As can be seen from the sequence in the tweet above, HockeyAllsvenskan’s stats aren’t the most reliable. Norlinder was on the ice for the third goal in Kristianstad too, but didn’t get credit for it. So accept that the ice time and plus/minus stats will not be correctly awarded during the season, however we will go with the official stats.
Norlinder now leads the team’s defence in both goals and points, and has the most goals of any blue-liner in the league.
Eyes On The Prize spoke with Norlinder’s defence partner, former NHLer Tobias Enström, about Norlinder’s development. You can listen to the short interview in full below:
Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden
The Swedish centre is so unlucky at the moment that it’s tough to watch. His PDO is just above .900. He wins more faceoffs in the offensive zone than in the defensive end, but struggles with his aim when he gets a chance, as you can see from the video below.
Jacob Olofsson's season in a short video.... The #Habs prospect plays good, but just needs one bounce to get some confidence back. #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/XAuHVoaSt1— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) October 12, 2019
Skellefteå took an important win in the Champions Hockey League over Kärpät and will need a point in the last group-stage game to make sure they are through to the knockout stage. The games in the CHL should not only benefit Olofsson’s development, but hopefully also give him a chance to boost his shattered confidence.
Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland
It was a tough week for the Lahti Pelicans. First the team lost to Yunost Minsk in the Champions Hockey League that made sure the team was out of contention in the pan-European tournament.
The tolls of a gruelling competition and the disappointment from not qualifying left the Pelicans with no gas in the tank. After losing by a goal against JYP, the team collapsed against KooKoo and lost 5-1.
Ylönen’s week brought what we have come to expect from the fast-skating forward: one goal and one assist. The assist was a pass into his own end from a neutral-zone faceoff, where the defender then sprung a speedy Hannes Björninen (who might be worth keeping an eye on as an undrafted player).
The goal came after a mad scramble in front of the net in the CHL. It is encouraging to see Ylönen looking for the puck in those areas, and it bodes well for the transition to the smaller ice in North America.
Jesse Ylönen's goal from the Champions Hockey League earlier today. A mad scramble infront of the net and Ylönen gets his shot off for the goal. #Habs #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/Dqd93GgfWi— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) October 9, 2019
Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia
This was another week for Romanov to show his defensive acumen. He expertly defended both the pass and the shot when he was the lone defender against an Amur counter-attack.
Alexander Romanov plays the last defender to perfection, and Sorokin doesn't even have to make a save thanks to Romanov's strong play. #Habs #GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/SADIql5TuW— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) October 8, 2019
The fact that he plays as well as he does, in what is generally considered the second-best league, and on its best team, has put the Canadiens in motion:
Marc Bergevin a annoncé, dans son dernier point de presse, la semaine dernière, qu’il ira en Russie au mois de décembre pour rencontrer Alexander Romanov.— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) October 9, 2019
It will be a tough sell for the general manager, and probably tougher than what many fans think. CSKA can offer a fair bit of money to the Russian defender to stay at home; a lot more than the maximum for an entry-level contract in NHL. Added to the conundrum is the fact that CSKA can negotiate a new contract with Romanov all through the season, while Montreal has to wait until his current contract has expired.