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European Prospect Report: The Eagle of Pori is taking off

Jesperi Kotkaniemi had a two-goal game, while Mattias Norlinder is getting closer to a return.

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

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ässät [Loan], Liiga, Finland

It was a big week for the “Eagle from Pori” as he revved up his game and really took charge of the second-line duties for Ässät. He started off with his first two goals of the season in Wednesday’s game against Jesse Ylönen’s Pelicans. They were two outstanding goals, on which he showcased something that he hasn’t really been able to use in Montreal: his shot.

His position on the power play, along the half-wall, benefits him a lot. He has the vision to open up passes from a stationary point. He can move in to create movement in the defensive box and pass to his player within that box, or he can take the shot himself. If he can continue to develop this dual-/triple-treat game, he will really get the chance to run a power-play unit with the big club, too.

His first goal came as he slid in and released a wicked shot that the goalie had no chance on:

The second goal came at the end of a short-handed rush that he finished himself, and his celebration was understated to say the least.

An example of when he can use his shot as a threat and then set up his linemates for goals came in the third game of the week, as he moved in threatening a shot before passing to Wännström for an almost empty net. The big ice certainly helps, but that was a smart play, and Kotkaniemi’s confidence should be high going into Canadiens training camp.

Before Kotkaniemi played his first game this season, we asked a few Finnish experts about what to expect from the young Finn in his return to Liiga. They all said he’d be somewhere around a point-per-game pace. After 10 games he is almost there, and that’s after going pointless for his first four contests.

Ari-Pekka Selin, Ässät’s coach, has also started to use Kotkaniemi on the penalty kill. The increased role on the ice is something that should benefit the centre going forward, and this must be what the Marc Bergevin hoped for when the loan agreement with Ässät was signed.

A Kotkaniemi who gets to play, who gets to build up his confidence, and gets a chance to practise playing centre — because, remember, Kotkaniemi hadn’t played many games as a centre in Liiga before he left for the bleu-blanc-rouge — this was valuable time for the young player to continue his development.

The team named him their player of the week as his loan with the team ends. He has been formally invited to training camp by the Canadiens.

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans [Loan], Liiga, Finland

It was a quiet week for Ylönen, even though the Pelicans are working well as a team, currently residing in the third spot. Much of the success is due to Ryan Lasch’s power-play game, and Canadiens fans are left to rue the decision to not keep Ylönen and Lasch together after they played together for the first three games of the campaign.

Still, Ylönen had some of his usual rushes against Kotkaniemi’s Ässät on Wednesday, but he was often alone when he got the puck, and the defensive coverage was strong from an Ässät team that needed to close down the attacking forward.

It is good to see a more confident Ylönen out on the ice. He is asking for the puck and using his great skating to get into the action. He will need seasoning in Joël Bouchard’s system, but should take to the North American game with ease, thanks to his skating and work ethic.

Otto Leskinen, KalPa [Loan], Liiga, Finland

The defender continues his strong play in Liiga. He is being relied upon in all situations by the KalPa coaching staff, and while he was minus-three last week, at least two of the goals were not his fault, as both times he took his attacker and kept him out of the play while his defence partners made their own errors.

Leskinen released his devastating shot fo a goal, and it is good to see that what led Montreal to sign him still works in his return to Liiga: the power play.

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

There was only one game for Vejdemo, a match in which he provided an assist on the power play.

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

Another week, another goal got Gordin. However, I do expect more from a player in the MHL than one goal in a 9-1 win. With both games being against Spartak, some adjustment was made by the Spartak coaches between games, and the second one finished in the shootout after a 0-0 game.

Jan Myšák, HC Litvinov, Extraliga, Czech Republic

There has been limited success for Myšák in his time in Litvinov. First the league closed down, and now he has been on third-/fourth-line duty.

He was called upon in the shootout against Liberec, but missed his attempt. During Sunday’s game, he was called for a boarding incident in the corner. After he tackled his opponent into the boards; he received a two-minute minor, along with a 10-minute misconduct.

With limited numbers to work with, Myšák holds a Corsi-for percentage of 44.1%, and a relative Corsi-for percentage of -8:51. These are limited numbers as there have been only six games, and we know that the coaches in the Czech league tend to have young players really earn their minutes the tough way.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

Olofsson’s time in the news this week was the result of him leaving Skellefteå, where he was facing declining usage and playing in the wrong position. He has returned to Timrå IK, and moved back to centre.

While Olofsson hasn’t played any games yet, he seems excited to return to his old stomping ground, and especially playing with Jonathan Dahlén again.

”It feels great and fun to return to Timrå, it will take a while to get back into the team,” Olofsson said to EOTP, “Dahlén has been on fire and I am relishing the opportunity to play with him again.”

While it will be a step down in level for Olofsson, the chance to rebuild his confidence and return to his natural position should all be in his favour. The contract he signed with Timrå is for this season and the next. At that time it will be up to the Canadiens to decide if they want to keep him in the system or let him loose.

Injured Players

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

Still no games for the defender in Germany.

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Norlinder went on ice on Tuesday, but when I spoke with Frölunda’s defence coach, Kristofer Näslund (no relation to Mats or Markus), he said that the expected return is this Saturday.

Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga Finland

Still no update on Ikonen’s injury.