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European Prospect Report: Alexander Romanov is getting trusted with more ice time

Frederik Dichow was busy between the pipes last week, while Jesse Ylönen’s hockey sense and speed are coming together in Liiga.

Kontinental Hockey League: CSKA Moscow 6 - 1 HC Vityaz Photo by Mikhail Japaridze\TASS via Getty Images

Frederik Dichow, SuperElite, Malmö U20, Sweden

The Danish goalie has been the workhorse that Coach Blomqvist wanted. Dichow has played all but one game and has come away with three wins in four contests.

The first game this week was a shootout between Malmö and Växjö that the latter won 6-3, with the last goal an empty-netter after Dichow had been pulled. It would have been understandable if the coach had put in another goalie for the second game in as many days, but Dichow got the nod and held steady, only letting one puck by him in a 4-1 road win versus Karlskrona.

The heavy workload has him as the goalie with the second-most minutes in the league in the early going. Even with a five-goal game, Dichow is third in the SuperElite South in save percentage at .922 and fifth when those in the SuperElite North are included.

Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

The skilled Swedish defender returned from his scaphoid bone fracture in Modo’s first competitive game of the season. Norlinder played a total of 3:32 and while he did look a bit rusty, he managed to get a long shift on Modo’s second power-play unit.

The ice time was low for the defender, but it was an important step to get back on the team, and it is a sign of things to come with Coach Hellqvist already using him on the man advantage. Norlinder will be in action on Monday night for Modo’s second game of the season in a hotly contested local derby against Björklöven.

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden.

Another player returning from injury was Jacob Olofsson, who had been sidelined due to a concussion. In his return to the SHL, he had some really good shifts and put his bigger body to good use on the forecheck to pin Växjö down low. He also helped out his team in the faceoff circle, winning five of the seven he took, and is leading Skellefteå with that performance.

Olofsson’s skating has always been good, and he seems to have kept up his level even after adding a few kilos the summer. He looks quite big compared to last year, and he spent more time in the offensive zone in this game than he did in any game last season, despite limited minutes while centring the third line.

He still seems to lack a bit of confidence around the net, but the impact of having one of Sweden’s best players outside of the NHL, Joakim Lindström, on the team should only benefit him and give him someone to model his game on.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

There is no end to Ikonen’s injury woes. Having just recovered from a knee injury that took six months to fully recover from, Ikonen sustained another long-term injury to his leg and is out for the next six months. KalPa puts his return somewhere in March and while the team seems to have improved since last season, I don’t see them being part of the playoffs at the semifinal stage.

The question is where this leaves Ikonen with regard to his development. The Canadiens had four years to sign him after he was drafted, and it was widely assumed that Ikonen would come across the Atlantic and spend the next season in Laval before really pushing for an NHL spot. Now, it looks as Ikonen will have to stay in Europe another year — his last — before Montreal will need to make a decision on where he would benefit the organization the most.

Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

While Ylönen only put up an assist this week, he had some outstanding efforts in the two games he played. His excellent skating has been on full display, using it to create havoc among the opposing defence. If he can continue to create chances like this for himself and his teammates, there is no reason to worry about his production.

The way that Ylönen uses his skating to create separation for his zone exits and entries, especially at four-on-four and three-on-three, makes him very dangerous. The Pelicans really should have been able to convert when Ylönen drew a penalty in overtime.

He made sure not to go offside by dragging his foot behind — great awareness by the young forward that made the play happen — and created a bit of space before opening up for the shot. He gave his teammate the best opportunity for a quality shot. These are some of the things that really show to the average fan what excellent hockey sense the Finnish forward has.

We spoke with Ylönen’s head coach, Ville Nieminen, this week. You can listen to what he says about his young forward in the latest episode of The Dispatch.

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

Khisamutdinov started this season in the VHL, but with three points in four games (two of them goals) he earned himself a call-up to the KHL. He played two games for the Wolves of Nizhnekamsk, but was not part of a third contest on Saturday when Neftekhimik played Salavat.

Khisamutdinov worked hard along the boards and protected the puck quite well to get in toward the net. Montreal took him in the 2019 Draft to avoid competition to sign him when his contract runs out this spring. He is definitely a work in progress, but to have been called up this early in the KHL season can only be positive.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

In two games, Romanov came close to the 15-minute mark in each, increasing his average time on ice this season.

He had a couple of great plays, as well. The first was an attacking play that really did deserve a better end than the goalie interference call that he received. It is clear that the young defender tried to stop and looked devastated in the sin bin after the play. However, the effort highlighted his ability to read the game, his speed, and his offensive potential; something that has rarely been on display at this level.

The other play showcased Romanov’s defensive ability. He stayed upright when the pass came his way instead of going down and trying to take the whole play away. The most impressive things to me was how quickly he got up after having blocked the shot, the acceleration he showed to stay with the attacker, and, in the end, forcing the puck out of the zone. The acceleration that Romanov uses to close the gap is something that really should benefit him when he decides to come over to the NHL.

He didn’t register any points, but Romanov’s defensive play is still something that holds up to scrutiny. He has received some additional minutes and was on the ice for more goals for then against. It is clear that Coach Nikitin is using Romanov more when CSKA has the puck in the offensive zone, and that’s a development that is very encouraging.