Having been out of the line up for six weeks due to a concussion, Mattias Norlinder was undoubtedly looking forward to the game prior to the opening faceoff. However, the young Swedish defender got a surprise when he was awarded the “Guldgallret” (translation: the golden cage) as the best junior playing in HockeyAllsvenskan this season.
It had been held a secret, and it is a testament to Norlinder’s skill that he gets this award even after having been sidelined for six weeks.
Previous winners are a mix of professionals in NHL and in the European leagues. Stand out winners include Filip Forsberg and William Karlsson, while other players has been hampered in their progress due to injuries, illnesses and in Robin Kovacs case, a personal tragedy. Some players, such as Canadiens prospect Jacob Olofsson haven’t had the chance to make an impact on the bigger stage just yet.
It also has to be pointed out that not all future NHL players play in HockeyAllsvenskan, but rather go directly to the SHL.
It was a vital game for Modo, who are trying to hold off Timrå for the last playoff game in the promotion battle to the SHL, and Norlinder was involved right from the start. He drove play and in the end Norlinder got the chance to score when he joined the rush and caught a wayward puck and brought it into the slot for a shot on goal, a shot that went in thanks to using the defender as a screen.
The defender got a secondary assist later in the game and is currently at 17 (7G+10A) points in HockeyAllsvenskan.
In regards to his concussion, there didn’t seem to be any lingering effects, however Norlinder used at tinted visor in order to get away from some reflections on the ice.
With Modo’s big win, and Timrå’s loss, Modo looks set to take on Björklöven in the playoffs for the right to play one of the lower ranked teams in the SHL. Modo has three points and has 10 goals in hand over Timrå with one game remaining.
In December, Norlinder signed an extension with Modo, a contract that he can opt out of if Modo doesn’t make the SHL, and all SHL teams are on standby to snag the skillful defender if that doesn’t happen.