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European Prospect Report: Jacob Olofsson finds a little offence, and a lot of confidence

Arsen Khisamutdinov has a hat trick and Frederik Dichow gets two wins, but this week’s star is Olofsson, who has found his groove.

Sweden v United States - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

A couple of weeks ago, this column mentioned that the Swedish centre might be on the verge of a breakout. It seems that the breakout is now happening. In three games last week, Olofsson had two goals and two assists. While the points are great to see, it is even better to see him play with confidence, something he hasn’t done in over a year.

Coach Samuelsson has matched Olofsson smartly. While keeping him on the third line, the forward has had a chance to play on the second power-play unit, which he runs from his office along the half-wall. It has given him some assists, and with them his confidence has increased exponentially. That has been visible in his play in crowded situations, be it along the boards, in front of the net, or as in Saturday’s game near the blue line:

Both of his goals came in similar situations: an intercept in the offensive zone and a good fast finish.

Having left Sweden’s U20 camp last week due to an illness, he put down a huge marker to be included in the World Junior Championship squad with his play over the weekend.

Frederik Dichow, Malmö U20, SuperElite / Malmö Redhawks SHL, Sweden

One of the challengers for player of the week was Danish goalie Frederik Dichow, who had an impressive performance in his two starts. In over 120 minutes and facing 54 shots, The Gnome only let three pucks past him, helping Malmö to two important and impressive wins in order to consolidate the team in a playoff position.

It seems that the call-up to the SHL and the subsequent Danish U20 camp made Dichow level up and find an extra gear. Denmark’s U20 coach, Olof Eller, confirmed to Eyes On The Prize that Dichow will be one of the main goalies in the challenge that Denmark face in Belarus to return to the Top Division for the Juniors once more.

We will have more on Dichow later this week.

Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

The most talked about player among the European prospects this season has been Modo’s defender Mattias Norlinder, who had a “quiet” week where he produced one assist, but what really stood out was his solid defensive play. It seems Norlinder has taken a more defensive approach in the last two games in order to make an impression on WJC coach Tomas Montén.

There were eye-catching moments on the opposite end as well. Norlinder showed off his offensive qualities, starting with another assist for his highlight reel:

Expert commentator Harald Lückner says “Norlinder is one of the best, if not the best, in regards to skating skill, players that has ever come out of Modo.” With Modo’s history, that’s saying a lot, as players such as Victor Hedman, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Marcus Näslund, and Peter Forsberg have all come through the ranks.

Norlinder tried out a new move after his assist against Västerås, and it almost resulted in another goal for the team from Örnsköldsvik:

The whole of Montreal held its collective breath when Norlinder got hit and stayed down in Friday’s game. He came back and played a little less than he usually does (just over 17 minutes) but his first impression didn’t look that good.

Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

While Ylönen’s third line has looked good defensively, the deployment has hampered Ylönen’s offensive output. In last week’s two games, he only had two shots on goal.

Coach Nieminen had to make some changes to fix the leak of the sinking ship that the Pelicans had become before the national team break. So far, it seems to have worked as the Pelicans held Kärpät to no goals for over two periods, however the team lost the game in the third period with the third goal coming when the birds had pulled the goalie.

It remains to be seen if Ylönen can move up the roster, but at the moment Jacob Olofsson is catching up to the Finnish prospect, in an arguably a better league. It will be interesting to see how the scoring race between the 2018-drafted prospects plays out over the rest of the season.

Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL) / CSK VVS Samara (VHL), Russia

The Firestarter went on a scoring spree when he got to play one game in the VHL. Khisamutdinov scored three goals against Humo Tashkent, one of them while short-handed. The hat trick got the big forward called up to Neftekhimik, and he played over 13 minutes on the third line in the game against Spartak Moscow.

He had a really good chance to score, however when Neftekhimik was chasing the game with a couple of minutes left, the forward took an accidental double minor for high-sticking, and the game was lost in the end.

What was more important was that Khisamutdinov got to play on the power play, and he looked solid on a decent KHL team, which bodes well for his future in the Canadiens organization. It is now up to him to solidify his role on the roster.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

Romanov had a tough week — just like CSKA. He played less than eight minutes in the overtime loss in the Moscow derby against Spartak. He got more time on the ice in the loss to Salavat Yulaev, where he finished with slightly over 12 minutes.

Personally, I think the Naumenkov-Marchenko pairing is a disaster waiting to happen, and while the players have some offensive skill, the defensive-zone debacles come one after another. I would compare the defensive-zone reads akin to how headless chickens would try to defend.

However, I understand coach Nikitin’s will to hold Romanov back in the first game of the week after the defenceman had played over 22 minutes in three games the previous weekend, but at some point the coach will have to play a more defensively secure Romanov ahead of the aforementioned defenders.

Long-term injury: Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland - In a short conversation with Eyes On The Prize, Ikonen says that the rehab is going to schedule, and that he is doing fine mentally.