Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden
Just before the World Junior Hockey Championship, the Swedish defender signed a new contract with his team in HockeyAllsvenskan, one of Sweden’s most classic teams, Modo.
The contract is for next year and will go into effect if Modo qualifies for the SHL. If the club doesn’t get promoted, Norlinder has the option of breaking the contract and choosing another path forward. All SHL clubs will be courting the skilled defender to get him to lead the offence in the same way he started out the season in Modo, but at a higher level of play, and Norlinder would also have the option of going across the pond to the Canadiens organization, even if I don’t think he is ready to challenge for a roster spot next season.
Why do player and team agree to this deal? Partly it’s planning. The “silly season” is already in full swing for 2020-21 and Modo would want to be certain that their core players stay on if they qualify for Sweden’s premier league. Due to the NHL’s CBA, Montreal would have to honour an existing contract with a European club and its player, and would have to offer him back to the European club before assigning him to the AHL with a non-conditional agreement.
From Norlinder’s side, it offers security and peace of mind as the end of the season approaches. Other interesting SHL teams are put on hold to give Norlinder the best chance to choose the team that will be the best for him going forward should things not work out for Modo. It puts his career in the focus, no matter in what organization or league he ends up with. One would assume that this also points to the fact that Norlinder will stay in Europe for next season, and not choose to cross the Atlantic this summer.
Staying with Modo is a natural thing to do; it is a club that have placed its trust in the defender from an early stage, and Norlinder must be feeling secure in the club and the city of Örnsköldsvik. Norlinder would anchor the defence and strengthen his defensive game as Modo would undoubtedly be struggling and fighting to avoid relegation at the end of the season.
However, if Modo don’t earn the promotion to the SHL there are a few clubs in the SHL that surely would benefit Norlinder’s development.
When it comes to the SHL there are a few teams I could see as more or less perfect fits for the young defender. Skellefteå AIK would be a good fit in the way that they have given Philip Broberg free rein to play his game, and that spot will likely be open come next season.
Luleå will probably have a roster spot open as Nils Lundkvist’s season won’t have gone unnoticed in New York, and with Luleå leading the charge to add both the CHL and SHL titles this season, there won’t be any trophies left for Lundkvist to win. The way that Luleå has offered the chance for progress for their offensive defender would mean it’s also a good fit for Montreal’s prospect.
Frölunda, the top team in Europe and Sweden over the last few years, would be a good fit. While I have been critical of coach Rönnberg’s skill of preparing young defenders for the elite leagues, especially with regard to Filip Westerlund (Rasmus Dahlin didn’t need any development; he was a self-playing piano), his work with Los Angeles Kings prospect Jacob Moverare shows that I was wrong.
A one-year contract with one of those teams would most likely prepare Norlinder for the step over to the NHL and allow him to challenge for a roster spot directly with the Canadiens.
Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland
The Pelicans are struggling and Ylönen’s time on ice has been cut since the new coach took over. He now averages about 14 minutes a game and his production has declined as a result.
The question remains: will Ylönen go on loan to a better team and get the chance to play in the playoffs, or will he stay on the Pelicans to see the season through?
Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL) / CSK VVS Samara (VHL), Russia
The forward played all three games for Neftekhimik. He continues his hard work and has earned some more time and more frequent games lately. Will this lead to a point increase? The forward only has two points to his name this season in the KHL.
Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia
For World Juniors stats, please see the separate WJC article.
Frederik Dichow, Malmö U20, SuperElite / Malmö Redhawks SHL, Sweden
No games for Malmö U20 this week.
Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden
Olofsson is out with what is said to be a shoulder injury.
Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland
Out until mid-March with a muscle injury.