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European Prospect Report: Jesperi Kotkaniemi gets his first game action

As several players struggle for points, new addition Alexander Gordin is ripping it up in Russia.

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ässät [Loan], Liiga, Finland

All Montreal Canadiens fans had their eyes on Pori, Finland this weekend as Jesperi Kotkaniemi returned to his old club, Ässät, in order to get some games in and prepare him for the upcoming NHL season.

The game had barely started before Ässät was 1-0 down, and the contest continued the same way. In the end, Ässät lost 6-1, and had gotten their coach, Ari-Pekka Selin, sent up to the stands after an argument with the referees.

Kotkaniemi hadn’t gelled with his teammates just yet. There were flashes of what will doubtless come, but it seemed like his temmates didn’t trust him to hold off, nor beat, his defender as they more often than not sent an easier pass to a less-dangerous area.

The Finnish centre brought a more physical game to the team, especially on the forecheck:

He also used his new NHL skills on the power play to take control the puck and try the wrap-around, but was held off by a frantic goalkeeper.

He finished the game with a 50% Corsi-for percentage, was 63.2% in the faceoff circle, and had skated more than anyone else on either team (5200m) in 20:24 of ice time.

Ässät’s next game is on Tuesday against Sport.

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

Following up on his words to Eyes On The Prize last week, Olofsson showed up with intent in the top game against Rögle on the weekend. He was rewarded with his highest time on ice of the season: 13:21. He also had a beautiful assist when he held off a defender by using his strength and delivered a very smart pass, showing some confidence much in the same way as he played just before his injury last season.

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Norlinder is not a normal defender. His skating and especially his skill with the puck is amazing, and he wants — and is encouraged — to use his offence in Frölunda. That really came to everyone’s attention on a Tuesday night in Malmö:

They way he took the puck behind the net, where he challenged two defenders and then used a teammate as a screen was smart. For a defenceman to try a Michigan ... yes that is something completely different. A very astute goalkeeper made the save as Norlinder didn’t get the puck high enough to avoid the blocker. Cherish the try, but also the save.

Looking at some defensive plays, this one stands out:

This was a tough situation for Norlinder. He was the only defender on the power-play unit, and dealt with a bad pinch from one forward, a bad read from another, and a lack of backcheck speed/support.

He is a high-end skater, but he’s not Quinn Hughes. He read this situation well, and does back off due to the odd-man rush, but doesn’t have his stick defending in the middle of the ice once his teammate caught up to the two-on-one. He gave up the centre of the ice by backing off a bit too much and not using his stick. That said, he had no support. No forward skated fast enough to cut the central line. Norlinder had to back off from the odd-man situation.

To cap off things this week, Norlinder was named to represent Sweden in the Karjala Cup in early November.

Lukas Vejdemo, Södertälje SK [Loan], HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

A tough hit from Hardegård meant that Vejdemo didn’t play more than six-and-a-half minutes in Friday’s game, where he was centring the first line for Södertälje.

It also meant that he was left out of the SSK lineup for Sunday’s game against Björklöven.

In the week’s first game Vejdemo had an assist, resulting in a 0.5 ponts-per-game average before his injury.

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans [Loan], Liiga, Finland

The Pelicans’ struggles continued on Friday night when they played HPK and lost 7-2. For Ylönen, it was a sort of an impressive feat that he was only -1 in the protocol. Both Pelicans goals came on the power play, and Ylönen has been moved around the lineup a bit.

In the second game against HPK this week, a 7-2 win for the Pelicans, Ylönen had the same problem. He is being left off the line with Ryan Lasch and the power-play unit, and four of Pelicans’ goals were made by the special teams. He isn’t getting any easy points.

Ylönen has a 46% Corsi-for percentage on a team that has only won three games out of eight. What is more concerning is his move down the roster, playing less than 10 minutes in his last game, something that wasn’t expected when the loan agreement was made public.

Alexander Gordin, SKA-1946 Saint Petersburg, MHL, Russia

The most intriguing prospect in the Canadiens’ European crop is Alexander Gordin. The Russian keeps grabbing the points: four in two games this week.

We are working to get more information on this interesting player in the near future.

Otto Leskinen, KalPa [Loan], Liiga, Finland

No games for Leskinen this week after a COVID-19 outbreak in the team.

Jan Myšák, HC Litvinov, Extraliga, Czech Republic

With the Extraliga on lockdown due to COVID-19, there were no games for Myšák this week.

Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga Finland

Injured; expected return in 6-8 weeks.