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European Prospect Report: Jesse Ylönen maintains focus through Pelicans’ turmoil

The Finnish forward can finish, Jacob Olofsson thrives in his new role, and is Alexander Romanov the rock the Canadiens can build a foundation on?

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Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

Last week we highlighted the problems that the Pelicans faced off the ice, and this week it took another turn as Coach Ville Nieminen was fired after an atrocious start to the season. Assistant coach Jesse Welling was named the caretaker for the duration. The team is currently 13th out of 15 teams in Liiga, and it is not looking good to even reach the wild-cards series to get into the playoffs.

Through all of this, Jesse Ylönen has stood tall and worked hard, not in the same way as Jacob Olofsson had to do last year, but it is clear that Ylönen’s defensive reads and positioning have improved.

He hasn’t forgotten how to score. Out of the Pelicans’ three goals this week he scored two. Both of the goals came on the power play, where he is used in the central position but closer to the net compared to last season.

His mind and hands adjust quickly to where the puck ends up, and he strikes like a cobra on loose pucks when he gets the chance, as in the case above when he quickly reacted and got his own rebound.

On the play above, the defenders were forced to look behind the net by the set formation before the puck is sent in to Ylönen, who makes no mistake.

The Finnish forward has 14 points in 26 games for a 0.54 points-per-game average, which is a bit low for a player in Liiga during their draft-plus-two season; Alexandre Texier hit 0.75 in KalPa in that season. It is a valid comparison as their respective teams struggled in that season. Ylönen has received more ice time, but KalPa trusted Texier as a triggerman on the power play. Both were drafted in the second round.

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

There were two more close losses for Malmö in the SuperElite with Dichow in the net. It is tough to stop pucks when there is a traffic jam in front of you.

Dichow fights hard in his net, but at times he doesn’t get the support he needs from his defenders. Malmö started the season hot but has recently dropped off in their performance. He ranks 13th in the league in save percentage, and has started the forth-most games for his team.

Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

It was a down week for Modo, losing two out of three games, and the last game of the week was a blowout 7-0 loss to Karlskoga. It meant that Modo lost the top spot of the league, but more importantly the team has looked lost at times, especially when they have had to chase the game.

Norlinder himself had a decent week. There were no points, and at -3 I can’t really fault him for any of the goals against. After the Four Nations tournament, it seems Norlinder has focused on the defensive game and he doesn’t do the flashy plays with the same frequency as before, which is understandable as he has the WJC as a big goal for this season.

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

It is a different Olofsson who has skated out on the ice the last few games. The centre plays with a confidence and speed of both feet and mind. He is currently on the path many were hoping he could take when he signed with Skellefteå, and he seems certain to continue down that path.

The smart thing from Coach Samuelsson was to start playing Olofsson on the second power-play unit and to let him run it from the half-wall. Even if the points didn’t come, Olofsson gained confidence and he has been more involved in the offensive game, even if it hasn’t been seen in the official records.

This weekend, Olofsson had a fantastic primary assist where he really threaded the puck between the defenders at high speed. Because of Olofsson’s speed and confidence, the second defender jumps the play a bit and leaves Kiiskinen all alone.

The confidence boost is a welcome sight for World Juniors coach Tomas Montén, who will undoubtedly look to Olofsson to generate similar offence in the international tournament.

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

The Firestarter played just one game this week, and I am quite surprised by that because when he gets to play he works all over the ice. He is more skillful than you’d think by looking at his size. He skates well and reads the game quite well, too. To be honest, I don’t know why the coach keeps dropping him out of the lineup.

I am relatively certain that Khisamutdinov will be a player in Laval next year. He is most definetly better than the usage he is getting in the KHL.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

There is one fact to be taken from the last couple of games: CSKA is better defensively with Romanov on the ice than off it. He may not be the most exciting player offensively, even if he actually has improved there, too, but he rarely puts a skate wrong in his own end.

He does however play well back when the play is in the offensive zone and lets his teammates do the work, but he plays his role to perfection and he doesn’t overcommit early or pinch hard as some of his colleagues do.

Marc Bergevin is expected to be in Russia this week in order to speak with the defender about his future with the Canadiens organization — something that was revealed well before the current losing streak began for the NHL team, if you’re wondering.

Injured: Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland - expected return March, 2020.