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European Prospect Report: Jacob Olofsson finds his offensive game just in time for the World Juniors

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The Canadiens prospect had been snakebitten all season long before a temporary shift to wing unlocked his offence.

Jörgen Bergkvist/Skellefteå AIK

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

In the last 11 games in the SHL, Jacob Olofsson has scored nine points (2G, 7A). That’s a 0.82-points-per-game average, and while it probably isn’t sustainable, it is bringing a regression to the mean. The underlying numbers indicate that Olofsson really is doing quite well in relation to his teammates, and it does seem that he can keep his pace up after having struggled early in the season.

The Swedish centre has been coached smartly by Tommy Samuelsson, who moved Olofsson to wing for a few games before placing him back into the centre position. With confidence regained, he has been able to continue his strong game, and translate it into offensive production.

In the latest ‘Dispatch’ for Eyes On The Prize, Swedish National Junior Team coach Tomas Monén said he had told Olofsson early that he was to be included in the team. In a previous episode, Coach Montén said Olofsson’s hockey sense is of the highest level. The confidence gained in different competitions has brought out the hockey sense that was one of the main reasons why Trevor Timmins and Marc Bergevin took him in the second round in the 2018 NHL Draft.

Where bounces last year and earlier this season didn’t go Olofsson’s way, they are now finding new ways to help him instead. As it did in the case of his goal this week, where he came across as a pinball wizard as the puck bounces off three Linköping players before crossing the line. However, the video also shows the speed and zone entry that Olofsson is capable of when he has the confidence to perform.

In a similar way, his assist (a secondary one) showcased his vision as he found a passing lane across the ice to reach a streaking forward down the other wing.

Olofsson’s progress is interesting. He has another year on his contract with Skellefteå and it seems that staying in Sweden to develop was the right move. With another year in Skellefteå already set, he looks to be on a great path forward in his career.

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

No games for Dichow this week as he is preparing with the Danish U20 team in their quest to qualify for the 2021 WJC.

Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

Modo has had a tough couple of games and fallen to fourth spot, outside of the promotion round at the moment. Norlinder has played well with Tobias Enström and looks solid. Having played securely up until the roster for Sweden’s World Junior squad was announced, in the last two games his offensive game has shone through once more.

In Wednesday’s game, he was running the offensive play from the Gretzky position for a while, and in Saturday’s game — the derby against Björklöven — Norlinder added an assist, his seventh, for his 13th point of the season.

That is a heavy shot that Norlinder has, and he really should be using it a bit more, but in the WJC I think that it is his zone entries and his individual offensive skill that should be on display, and that will catch the eye of many Montreal Canadiens fans.

Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

The bottom seems to be falling out of the Pelicans team at the moment, and I am not sure that the international break coming up in a week’s time will be enough to fix the issues in order to make the playoffs. In the midst of a team without confidence stands a tall Finnish forward who must be thinking, “What happened?”

Even when the games starts well, as Ylönen and the Pelicans did on Tuesday, the team can’t win. Ylönen got the first goal of the game when he was left all alone at the far post.

But minutes later, Vartiainen put his team in a bad spot...

Tappara scored on the following advantage, and in the end the Pelicans lost 6-3.. Ylönen had another chance to double his score for the game, but he couldn’t convert on the breakaway.

In the second game of the week, the Pelicans lost to JYP by a 6-2 score, and now sit third from the bottom in the table, seven points from a wild-card spot. Sooner or later I would think that Ylönen will go on loan to another club, especially if he keeps his scoring up, much in the same way as Kristian Vesalainen did when he joined Kärpät (and won the championship) after his HPK was out of playoff contention.

It would be great to see Ylönen in Kärpät with a player of Jesse Puljujärvi’s calibre, and on a team that is known for its development program.

Ylönen is still managing over 0.5 points per game and continues to score no matter where the Pelicans have him in the lineup.

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

When Khisamutdinov gets to play, he is a shot machine and he really should be getting more chances on an up-and-down team in the KHL.

The more I see of him, the more I like this pick. He is so much more than just the big body that was the standout feature focused on after the draft, I especially like his technique both skating wise and the way he handles the puck. He might not turn into an NHLer, but the fact that Montreal used a seventh-round draft pick to get his rights makes total sense to me after having watched his play. There is a lot of promise in his game, and if he can get it all together he could make his way to the big club.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

Romanov played in the army rivalry game against Saint Petersburg, with Marc Bergevin in the stands, and played a few seconds over eight minutes. Many Canadiens fans saw this as a slight toward Bergevin and the Canadiens, but historically Romanov has only played over 10 minutes against SKA once; normally the defender gets about 6:30 against the other army competition in the KHL. Getting over eight minutes is the second-most he has ever played against SKA, something that should be considered.

You can also question why Bergevin wanted to catch the CSKA versus SKA game, but it is a very good indication on how Romanov would fare in the NHL as the matchup is between the two best teams outside the NHL. If Bergevin wanted to see Romanov play a lot, he would probably have chosen the Four Nations tournament in Helsinki, Finland instead.

Romanov added his fourth assist this week and has as many points this season before Christmas as he had after his full season last year.

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