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European Prospect Report: Alexander Romanov prepares for the KHL playoffs

The defenceman was a bit out of his depth as CSKA rested some players ahead of the post-season, but he will get key experience over the next few weeks.

Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

In a week where CSKA rested players for the upcoming playoffs that start on Tuesday, against state rival Vityaz, Romanov took a little bit of a tumble. His plus/minus statistics dipped and the defender chased the puck some games, and while focusing on the puck he lost coverage at least once.

However, with CSKA winning the regular-season title, home ice advantage has been secured for the Central Army team even in the Final. It will most likely come down to the projected Conference Final series against SKA Saint Petersburg to decide the winner of the Gagarin Cup this year, even if Avtomobilist won the Eastern Conference in style.

With the expectations most had on Romanov prior to the season, there is no doubt that this season will be called a success no matter how the playoffs pan out for The Tsar. Having played a full season in the KHL with an average ice time over 11 minutes, along with the performance in the Canada-Russia Series and the World Juniors, the biggest revelation among the European prospects this season will be Alexander Romanov.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

With KalPa having seven games left and a potential 21 points to win, they will need a Joni Ikonen in super form to claim the last wild-card spot that JYP currently holds, 11 points ahead. This week, KalPa faced some tough opposition: Tappara, Lukko and TPS. All three are top-six teams, and KalPa didn’t come away with any points, widening the gap to a post-season berth compared to the previous week.

Ikonen, however did his best to improve KalPa’s chances. He had two secondary assists in a hard-fought match against Lukko. He was rested against TPS the day after.

He is averaging close to a point per game since his return. As mentioned before, he plays a more mature and complete game since his return from injury. Given the poise that he is playing with, and the production that he is keeping up, it is safe to say that KalPa wouldn’t have been outside the playoffs looking in if Ikonen had been in the lineup since the start of the season.

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

Ylönen’s Pelicans are safely in the playoffs and will most likely bypass the wild-card games, entering the playoffs in the quarter-finals. This week, Ylönen played two games and came away with an assist on the empty-net goal against Ässät. It was a good backcheck from Ylönen, who stole the puck and passed it to Vartiainen for the goal.

It is notable that the ice time has gone up for the Finnish forward since his return from the World Junior Championship, and it is hard to not see the confidence boost that the tournament win gave him. He is still prone to drag away from the goal instead of going toward it when he enters the zone, and he will need to change that approach long term for a more general success, but also more immediately when the playoffs starts in March.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, SHL, Sweden

The report from last week was confirmed this week. Jacob Olofsson will play with a different SHL team next year: Skellefteå AIK.

It seems that this was something that didn’t go over well with the coach, as Olofsson wasn’t part of the squad for Saturday’s game. It is of course tragic that the “silly season” is already going on when the campaign isn’t finished yet. Olofsson will need to find the trust of his coach and get his own mind set to help Timrå stay up in the relegation series that will happen later this spring.

The move to Skellefteå should be a good one for Olofsson’s development. Skellefteå has been a powerhouse in Swedish hockey the last seven or eight years, with the exception of this season. Still, Skelefteå plays a game that is about attacking and keeping control of the puck. This year they rank fourth in Corsi-for percentage in the SHL at 53.4% (Timrå ranks last at 44.4%), and their game has been built on speed.

Olofsson will have to start out on a projected third line, he will most likely be used on the second power-play unit, seeing time on the penalty kill as well — much the same way as in Timrå, just on a better team. It is a move that speaks about his will to develop and one that should lead safely to the NHL with a bit of time.