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European Prospect Report: Jacob Olofsson’s slump may be coming to an end

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Jacob Olofssson gets all the apples, Frederik Dichow earns a call-up, the far East doesn’t suit Alexander Romanov, and Jesse Ylönen’s struggles continues.

Sweden v Switzerland - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

While many Montreal Canadiens fans have been low on Olofsson, experts have kept him high on their prospect lists (Corey Pronman had him at ninth in the organization in August, and Mitch Brown at 16th in July).

Moving to a team that is in transition to go back and challenge for the title means a different role then that he had in Timrå. While his production has been low, Olofsson’s overall play has been good. His work ethic is better than before. He also spends more time in the offensive zone, but his luck has been atrocious, which has affected his confidence.

This seems to have changed a bit. After being involved in the tying goal against Kärpät in CHL play two weeks ago, he has managed three assists in the SHL, and his confidence is showing as he dares to do more with the puck and find better passes.

Coach Samuelsson has also given Olofsson the chance to get his confidence back. Playing around 12 minutes a game, he has had the chance to play on Skellefteå’s second power-play unit, which he runs from the half-wall. It is clear that the Montreal prospect wants to participate more, as evidenced by his two assists this week.

With confidence gained, he tried this toe-drag move from in close. While the goalie made the save, the rebound went out the Frödén, who had an easy shot.

In the second game of the week, against Örebro, it was the same power-play unit that created chances and kept the pressure up, but got no result in the end.

That Olofsson is showing signs of breaking out should comfort National U20 Team coach Tomas Montén. Those skills will make a difference when he will get that chance to play with draft prospects such as Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond.

With almost a third of the season played and the National Team break coming up, Skellefteå AIK is currently in a wild-card position, having dropped a few places after a good start. Interestingly, there are two surprise teams (one if you listened to the Coach’s Challenge with Cam Abbott) — Örebro and Rögle — that top the table ahead of a Frölunda team many consider to be struggling.

SHL

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

The Danish goalkeeper didn’t play any games this week, but when Oscar Alsenfelt was out injured, Dichow earned the call-up to Malmö’s SHL team. He practised regularly with the SHL squad, and that’s something that should be considered a success. When Alsenfelt was given the all clear, Dichow still stayed with the senior team for that game.

Malmö is currently in the fifth spot, meaning that when the North and South leagues join up they will be among the top 10 teams, having a better chance of reaching the playoffs.

Swedish Ice Hockey Association

Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

There have been a few questions about Norlinder’s defence and size when facing more experienced attackers. He is strong and his balance and understanding of the game means that he will position himself better and smarter rather than use brute force when he needs to defend.

The defenceman was as involved as always in Modo’s game on Friday night, taking a bit more responsibility to cover when Mora’s defence tried to cut him off. This led to more of an attacking role for Tobias Enström, who seemed to relish the opportunity. “It makes Enström better, too,” Coach Blomkvist says of the paring’s symbiosis.

After a difficult start, Modo has taken command of the second spot in the table; a spot that would lead to a chance to play for promotion to the SHL.

Swedish Ice Hockey Association

Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

The Pelicans started the season hot, but have faltered lately, having won only one of their past eight games in Liiga before the win against Sport this weekend. This has affected Ylönen, as he has been moved around the lineup in order to find a solution for the struggles.

He has worked hard and continues his strong play, but production has been scarce. New linemates, combined with the fact that Coach Nieminen has moved him on and off the first power-play unit, has meant that the winger hasn’t found the same consistency he had at the start of the season.

The Pelicans are currently outside of the playoffs, and even the wild-card games. It is clear that the CHL hangover has been massive and the National Team break couldn’t have come at a better time.

Ylönen could be loaned out to another team if the Pelicans miss the playoffs; they would still keep his contract and would look for the other team to pick up the salary as well as offering some economical compensation. That would allow the Pelicans to keep their part of the NHL money coming in, as that is calculated for the club that holds Ylönen’s rights at the end of the season.

Liiga

Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk, KHL, Russia

The big winger has returned to the team after his minor injury, but he received no time on ice in Saturday’s game, even if he was on the bench. It should still be a positive sign that he wasn’t sent down to the VHL after the injury, but was chosen stay with the KHL team.

Neftekhimik has risen through the ranks after a slow start of the season. At one point, they were last in the Eastern Conference, but now reside in a playoff spot.

KHL

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

The defender has struggled, as has the whole team, during the two-game Far East trip. CSKA lost one of the worst games I have seen them play when they went 2-1 down to Sibir. They followed it up with a 3-0 win against Bars, but the team was only kept in the game thanks to a wall by the name of Ilya Sorokin.

Coach Nikitin later confirmed that the whole team had been bad, and Romanov didn’t even play in the third period. The blue-liner looked sluggish, fatigued, and had reverted back to his old ways with using his stick to cross check the opponent. There were a couple of times during the second period when Romanov made simple mistakes causing the team to suffer.

He played his last shift of the game with two-and-a-half minutes left of the second period. Romanov is still young and developing, and he needs further growth before reaching the NHL, and hopefully he took some lessons from a poor performance.

Romaonov, Olofsson, and Norlinder will all go to Finland for the Four Nations tournament, which serves as a dress rehearsal for the World Juniors, this upcoming weekend.

CSKA is on top of the KHL looking down, once more giving credence to the title “best team outside the NHL.”

KHL

Long-term injury: Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland — Looking at the Liiga table, I doubt there will be any hockey to be played in Kuopio when Ikonen returns from his injury.