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European Prospect Report: Joni Ikonen’s recovery is nearly complete

Ikonen discusses his imminent return to health, while Mattias Norlinder is all over the ice in Frölunda — in good ways and bad.

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga Finland

I spoke with Joni Ikonen on Sunday, asking how his progress was, as it had been mentioned that he was close to a return.

”I’ve been back on the ice [for a while]. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be able to be normally on ice [full contact, etc.],” the Finnish centre explains to Eyes On The Prize.

In regards to when a comeback to Liiga play might happen, Joni is more careful. “I really don’t know yet. It depends on how the team are playing games, and how the knee feels, but hopefully at the beginning of next year.”

Ikonen points to something really important: Ilves has played fantastic hockey and currently sits second in the league behind Lukko on goal difference. It will be a tough roster to crack for Ikonen, who hasn’t played a league game since February 22, 2019.

Ikonen confirms that he has worked hard in the gym during the long injury break. “I have gained some strength during this time.” It was a serious knee injury, and the extra strength should come in handy.

It is good to hear he is making progress, but our expectations needs to be realistic upon his return as he hasn’t played a league game in almost two years.

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

There were a couple of sequences in the two games that Norlinder played that are worth highlighting.

The first was an offensive play that turned into a defensive play.

Norlinder gets the puck after the faceoff and breaks toward the net with fast hands and quick feet. When the puck is lost he has read the play so well that he is already on his way to a defensive position. His skating also gives his teammate the chance to step up at the blue line. Interestingly, Norlinder goes for the puck; most other defenders would try and take the passing lane away, but Norlinder chooses to hurry the attacker - who does get the puck to his teammate, but he fails to control it.

Norlinder usually goes for the puck, even when safety protocols says you shouldn’t, it is a more risky play, but had he got the puck away, everyone would have lauded his aggressiveness.

In the second sequence, Norlinder comes off the blue line deep into the attacking zone to finish off the play, and it’s only luck and/or confidence that prevents him from getting a goal on the play.

The last sequence is a dreaded one. Norlinder, in his confidence of the play, takes his eyes off the puck and ends up causing a turnover. It disrupts Frölunda’s breakout/defensive structure and they can’t recover in time to keep their opponents from scoring.

Norlinder is young, and he oozes talent, but he is far from a polished prospect.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

Olofsson joined his old team Timrå, a team that really is running amok in HockeyAllsvenskan. They have a six-point lead with a game in hand.

Olofsson is strong in the faceoff circle, and last week was above 60%. He also scored the first goal in the game against Almtuna, and while he is on the second power-play unit, he doesn’t get a lot of chances as the first unit is so effective.

Timrå is built to qualify for the SHL next season and some of these games are more “job that needs to be done” kind of games than close, hard-fought ones. It should lead to a better confidence for Olofsson, but it is tough to judge his development.

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

Two goals in three games for Gordin this week as the forward continues to score in the MHL. The team is currently in Moscow, and beat Dynamo’s Junior team twice, but lost the last game against CSKA’s club. By the time you read this, the second of the back-to-back games against Krasnaya Armiya is being played, and it is in those games that Gordin needs to step up.

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

I stand corrected, as was pointed out in last week’s comments by dmn_habs: it is still pre-season in Germany, so Josh Brook hasn’t played a game in the German top division just yet. In last week’s game versus Düsseldorfer EG, he was -2 in a loss that finished 3-0 to the Düsseldorf team.

Last week’s assist came during overtime, and the goal was scored by Lucas Lessio.

In the two pre-season games that Brook has played, he has been on the ice around 20 min in each game. It’s something that bodes well for Brook’s usage when the season starts for real.

Jan Myšák, HC Litvinov, Extraliga, Czech Republic

No games for Myšák this week as he prepares for the World Junior Championship. However, the Czech team looks to be icing a first line of Adam Raska - Jan Myšák - Michal Teplý, a line that should carry the offence. After that trio, the team might struggle, so expect it to play major minutes.

Otto Leskinen, KalPa [Loan], Liiga, Finland

Season paused.

Jesse Ylönen, Pelicans [Loan], Liiga, Finland

Season paused.