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European Prospect Report: Mattias Norlinder on his recovery, playoffs, and comparisons to P.K. Subban

The defenceman has returned from a concussion, and done so in style.

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Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

During the first period back, Norlinder looked a bit off his usual game. He started with a wayward pass that caused a counter-attack, but as the game went on the young defender got back into things. “It’s tough at the start. The match tempo is different from practices and it took me a while.”

Norlinder was wearing a tinted visor, and explained “for practices all the lights aren’t on, therefore there are a lot more reflections and brightness when you play a game. It worked for Ovechkin, so I think it will work for me.”

“The toughest part [of the recovery] has been to not really know when I would get back. I have just been doing my thing, and waiting.” It is easy to hear the frustration in Norlinder’s voice when he speaks about the prolonged absence from hockey. However, one of the things that has helped Norlinder in his recovery has been the support from the Montreal Canadiens. “They said we would keep in touch more during my injury, and they checked in on me once, twice a week, and just told me to take my time and not push it.”

Norlinder got a goal and an assist in his first game back. The goal came as he joined the rush, more as a trailing forward than a defender, and he used the defenceman in front of him to screen the goalie.

“Its always fun to score,” Norlinder said, “but it was even more so after having gotten the award and of course since it was my return to the ice as well.”

In the second game of the week, and the last of the HockeyAllsvenskan’s regular season, Norlinder assisted on the game-winning goal, a tally that clinched the runner-up spot and took Modo to the playoffs.

The win meant that Modo will play against local rival Björklöven in the first step toward requalification to the SHL, something Norlinder looks forward to.

“It’s great that it is Björkloven because of the rivalry, but also it’s been great games between the clubs this season and it should be some good hockey, too.”

Norlinder’s game has been compared to P.K. Subban’s (though I prefer comparing Norlinder to fellow young Swede Philip Broberg). When asked about the comparison, Norlinder is measured in his response. “I think Subban is a great person and I watch his work off the ice. I’m maybe not a new P.K.; I want Montreal to be ready for a Norlinder instead.”

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

As happened last year in the playoffs, Alexander Romanov’s time on ice is cut with the increased importance of the games. A mistake in the playoffs can cause your team to go out, and Coach Nikitin has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to repeat his Gagarin Cup success from last year. Romanov’s ice time in the series against Torpedo from Nizhny Novgorod has gone as follows:

Game 1: 9:33 TOI
Game 2: 3:07 TOI
Game 3: 3:16 TOI
Game 4: 3:51 TOI

What must be remembered here is that CSKA is playing to win the Gagarin Cup. If Romanov was a first-pairing defender in their mind, it wouldn’t matter that his contract is set to run out — he would play. At the moment, he isn’t at that level in the second-best league in the world, and no one should think that Romanov will come in and play first-pairing minutes in the NHL next season. His game is well suited to North American style, but he will need time to develop further, much in the same way he has been doing with CSKA.

Frederik Dichow, Malmö U20, SuperElite / Malmö Redhawks SHL, Sweden

Frederik Dichow is still recovering from a “minor” concussion that he sustained in a game in mid-February. When I spoke to him late on Sunday night in Europe, he said, “I will take it easy and I won’t take any chances.” The Gnome hopes to be back in goal in time for the playoffs.

It’s been a different season for the Danish goalie, but he is happy with how it has helped him develop.

“The season is going great. I have developed a lot during the season on the ice, but I have also developed as a person, now that I have had to live alone. It has been going really good for me lately, but unfortunately I got hit during our game against Färjestad.”

Earlier this season Malmö’s general manager, Patrik Sylvegård, told Eyes On The Prize that Malmö is considering extending Dichow’s contract and using him as a backup goaltender for the SHL team. Dichow needs to be more even in his performances. He has had games where he stood on his head and won the game for Malmö, but he has also had a few games where he hasn’t held the same high level.

Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL) / CSK VVS Samara (VHL), Russia

The number-one seed in the East, Ak Bars Kazan, made the series short with Neftekhimik. Khisamutdinov got one game in the playoffs, a game he played 10:22 in and was -1.

Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland/Laval Rocket, AHL, Canada

Ylönen will finish the season with the Laval Rocket in AHL.

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

Olofsson is out for the season with a shoulder injury that required surgery.

Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

Ikonen is also out for the season with rehab training in order to get back to hockey next year.