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European Prospect Report: Jesperi Kotkaniemi finally gets rewarded

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Jesse Ylönen continues to score goals, but there’s some bad news for Mattias Norlinder.

NHL: JAN 09 Oilers at Canadiens Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before diving into the game of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and the other Finns, it could be interesting to have a quick look at the Liiga table, which is led by Joni Ikonen’s Ilves (without Joni playing one game) so far. However, Jesse Ylönen’s Pelicans have taken off, much thanks to a deadly power play that rests on the shoulders of Ryan Lasch, who has 14 assists in the last six games. Otto Leskinen’s KalPa and Kotkaniemi’s Ässät are firmly in the play-in positions at the moment, even if Ässät only has two wins (both coming after regulation) in the last five games.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ässät [Loan], Liiga, Finland

While Kotkaniemi has played well, the points have been absent. That changed during the games this week as the ‘Eagle of Pori’ scored three points in three games.

He broke his duck when he ran the power play unit against JYP. While his shot was blocked, Wännström had an almost open net as the deflection off the defender made the goalkeeper go out of position.

With minimal effort, Kotkaniemi got another two assists versus HPK. Both came after the other players did most of the work, but that’s hockey; sometimes you do everything right and your teammates can’t put the puck in the net, other times you do next to nothing but get rewarded with assists.

A lot of focus is undoubtedly on Ässät’s 9-1 loss to Lukko on Saturday, but Kotkaniemi played okay in that game. Ässät’s penalty kill was atrocious, and it didn’t help the team that players kept taking penalties.

Jared Book and myself spoke about Kotkaniemi’s situation in the latest episode of Habsent Minded, an episode you can listen to below:

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans [Loan], Liiga, Finland

While playing on the third line and the spare seconds that the second power-play unit gets, Jesse Ylönen is getting more and more comfortable. A couple of weeks ago it looked like he didn’t want the puck, now he is screaming for it. He has a great shot that he could use more often. The goal he scored this week is reminiscent of his goal in the 2019 WJC Gold Medal Game against the USA.

This sequence by Ylönen describes both his strengths and weaknesses in the same video. He is so skilled and he can find areas to move in and out of thanks to his combination of skating and puck control, and sets up a scoring chance that really should have been converted by the defender. The use of his teammate as a screen is well executed too.

However, it also shows that he doesn’t really go toward the net as hard as he could. He could have forced himself to the other side of the defender for a better chance for himself. It could be argued that it would have been a riskier play, but breaking into the zone as he does could mean that he would lose the puck with his team all going forward.

Still, it is a good play that deserved a better finish.

Otto Leskinen, KalPa [Loan], Liiga, Finland

We saw a good defensive outing from Leskinen that bodes well for his continued role in the Montreal Canadiens organization, be it in Laval or with the main team out of camp.

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

Another player who has started to make a good impression is Lukas Vejdemo. Even if Södertälje faced teams on the lower end of the table, Vejdemo continued to rule the faceoff circle, winning over 75% of the draws he took in both games.

He also managed to control the power play and set up one of the goals for Södertälje last week.

Vejdemo’s ice time is on the rise, even if it varies a lot from game to game.

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

A player who is struggling is Skellefteå’s Jacob Olofsson. He seems to have ended up in a downward spiral that started with him being moved to the wing, resulting in a loss of confidence, less ice time, a move down the roster to the 13th player in his las game this week, and with that a loss of even more confidence to keep the cycle going.

In the last game of the week Olofsson played less than five minutes, and we will have to see if there is a chance that he can go on loan, or if Skellefteå might even trade him to another team for the rest of the season.

Indeed, Olofsson will be loaned to get more playing time.

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

In his four games, Gordin contributed two assists. The puck control in the buildup to the goal below is strong, and he was looking poised in this clip.

Being over a point-per-game player is good. He still needs to work on his skating, but his point-production is nothing to sneer at.

Jan Myšák, HC Litvinov, Extraliga, Czech Republic

Myšák was a third-line winger in his two games last week. This should not be an issue for his development, and the jury is still out on where he will play in the future, as a lot of players start on the wing and move into the centre in their second year in a professional league in Europe (Vejdemo being such an example).

Injured Players

Josh Brook, Krefeld Pinguine [Loan], DEL, Germany

The German club confirmed a positive COVID-19 test for Josh Brook, a second test was pending a result.

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Week-to-week. No operation needed for his shoulder injury, according to the club.

Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga Finland

Still no update on Ikonen’s injury.