Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia
It’s interesting to see what can happen when Coach Nikitin trusts his young defensive protégé with more time in the offensive zone. He gave his charge his second-highest time on attack of the season (4:24), and Romanov added two assists in his only game of the week. He didn’t add those assists against a team that is out of the playoffs, but rather he showed his skill in a game between two playoff teams, with Lokomotiv on the other side.
Romanov left a lasting impression with his offensive game. He was stable guarding the blue line, and when he got the chance he took it. The first assist came off a heavy slap hot which the goalkeeper couldn’t hold, and the rebound ended up on Andrei Svetlakov stick so he could just force it in.
His second assist came as he smartly put the puck toward the net. Slepyshev got the puck out to Kirill Kaprizov, who scores a goal that will put every NHL goalie on notice.
Romanov looked confident on the ice. It seemed like he had benefited from the time with the national team and the rest after his trip to Helsinki and Stockholm.
It is unclear in what role Coach Nikitin will use Romanov in the upcoming playoffs. Last season the defenceman only played in the first round before getting injured, and then served as the seventh defender as CSKA went on to win the Gagarin Cup. This year Romanov will look to play deeper into the playoffs. Even if he will be the sixth or seventh defender, he has shown that he can be trusted, and it will benefit CSKA to utilize him more to give their top defenders a bit more rest.
Throughout the season Romanov’s ice times have varied, with the lowest coming against the other top team in the west, SKA St. Petersburg, or during longer road trips to the east.
There is no trend in regards to time on ice, but comparing it with last year it has been increased by over a minute, with about two more shifts per game. With the two assists this week he has almost doubled his offensive output as well.
We recently had an exclusive interview with Romanov, discussing his progress since he was drafted in 2018.
Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL) / CSK VVS Samara (VHL), Russia
It seems likely that The Firestarter is in the VHL for the rest of the season as he played three games with the Stars of Samara this week. Logging over 20 minutes of ice time in a lower league is better than playing four or five in the KHL.
Neftekhimik has strengthened their squad in order to make the playoffs, and Khisamutdinov was the odd man out. However, he impressed me with his skilled play when he had the opportunity. While mostly being a player that has had an offensive output in the lower leagues (MHL and VHL) with a good power play, he has also impressed with his defensive reads in the higher league of the KHL.
Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland
The Pelicans’ season is circling the drain, and I can’t see the team making the playoffs. I spoke to my Finnish colleagues last week in Stockholm to gauge if Ylönen could go on loan to a playoff team and get a chance to participate in the playoffs (I want to make clear that this was a group of people that discussed the situation hypothetically). No one had heard anything about a loan to any club, not even a whisper. The two top teams, Kärpät and Tappara, are stacked, and neither situation would benefit Ylönen nor would he get a chance to play there.
However, two teams that were mentioned as potential landing spots if it came to a loan option were Lukko and Ilves. If all goes right, they could challenge for a title. Ilves, with Lukáš Dostál, could cause some trouble for the top two teams, and that could be a good option for Ylönen to get a few extra games in before the season ends.
This week was another tough one for the Finn. The Pelicans played three games, winning only the last one. Ylönen gets the chance to play, and he plays well, but the team’s confidence has gone down like an anchor. It is tough to play for a team like this, but Ylönen does make the best out of a bad situation. He is fourth in scoring on the team, but more impressive is that Ylönen’s underlying numbers are better than his team. His Corsi-for percentage is 2.5 points higher than that of his team, this while starting a higher percentage of his shifts in his defensive end than an average teammate.
Frederik Dichow, Malmö U20, SuperElite / Malmö Redhawks SHL, Sweden
Dichow’s Malmö grabbed ahold of the top spot in the U20 requalification series with three wins in four days. Encouragingly for Montreal fans, Dichow was in the net for two of them. One was a shutout away to Karlskrona where The Gnome faced 21 shots. In the second game he let one puck pass for a 96.43 save percentage for the game, and a 97.96 save percentage on the week.
Malmö is in the top spot and looks to use the series as a springboard into the playoffs. Plenty of NHL scouts are taking notice as a late riser for the 2020 NHL Draft, Helge Grans, is on the team. Grans came away with five points (1G, 4A) in the three games where Malmö combined for 20 goals. He is a right-handed, offensive-minded defender whom many teams are looking at, and he has gotten some time with Malmö’s SHL team over the past month. He reminds many of Philip Broberg, a defender with massive offensive upside, but with a few glaring holes in his defensive reads at the moment.
Dichow’s stats takes a turn for the better after this performance, but the proof is in the pudding, and he will have to show similar performances in the playoffs when Malmö will face the top teams in Sweden’s U20 class once more.
Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden
There have been some setbacks in regards to Norlinder’s recovery from the concussion he suffered against Tingsryd.
“I can’t really say when I will be back, but it has gotten better!” he said when I spoke with him late last week. As it is a concussion and the season is long, Modo and Norlinder take the recovery seriously and let the doctors handle the decision of when Norlinder will be ready.
Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland
I reached out to Ikonen to gauge his progress with his rehab. The Finnish forward revealed the news that he won’t play any more games this season.
”[Rehab] is going good, it’s going as planned. Yes, I have been on the ice already a couple of times. No there won't be any games for me this season. We are not gonna risk playing too early and risk a new injury. So my focus is on the rehab and on the next season,” was his reply.
It’s smart thinking for Ikonen and the team to let his body heal up and build on a strong off-season in order to be prepared for the next campaign.
”I have no news about the next season yet. I am just focusing on rehab,” he explained when I brought up the outgoing contract with KalPa. While it’s unclear where Ikonen will play next season, he remains a Montreal prospect until June, 2021.
Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden
Out for the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.