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Highlights from Mattias Norlinder’s first SHL tournament with Frölunda

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The season is about to start in Sweden, and the Habs’ new number-one European prospect is making impressions early.

Tommy Holl

Mattias Norlinder made a move to Frölunda this off-season, and with SHL soon to start (without fans in the stands) the pre-season games and tournaments have begun. This weekend, three teams played a tournament in Strömstad on the west coast of Sweden: Frölunda, Färjestad and Leksand.

Montreal Canadiens prospect Mattias Norlinder played both games for Frölunda, and was used on both the five-on-four and five-on-three power plays, as well as five-on-five.

In the first game against Leksand, Norlinder seemed to have some problems adjusting to the play. Two times he was on the ice for goals against.

This is something that young offensive-minded defencemen show. They are a bit too focused on the puck and gets lost in the play rather than to focus on the defensive assignment. The good thing is that Frölunda coach Roger Rönnberg will iron out things like this during Norlinder’s time with the team.

The second big mistake Norlinder made in the opening game was the result of pure nonchalance.

However, Norlinder also showcased some of his strengths, especially his puck-carrying skills that come from his fantastic skating.

In the second game in the tournament, against Färjestad (a team favoured in the pre-season polls to go deep into the playoffs), Norlinder showcased all the high-quality offence that Canadiens fans have become accustomed to. His hockey IQ is on display when he reads the pass beautifully and breaks in with so much speed that the defence is left behind. It’s only a stellar play from Färjestad’s goalie, Arvid Holm (Winnipeg Jets), that leaves Norlinder off the board.

His quick dangles on the blue line give him a free line toward the net, and once more his finish leaves him wanting.

In the end, Norlinder was hailed as Frölunda’s ‘Man of the Match,’ even though I personally think that Jesper Sellgren (Carolina Hurricanes) would have been a better choice.

Frölunda won the tournament after two wins. It’s still pre-season and there shouldn’t be too much into a tournament like this there, but there are a few points to be taken.

Norlinder is still raw defensively, but he is better than many think, and I really liked his overall defensive positioning throughout the tournament. While I have chosen to highlight the errors, his overall play was better than I saw last year in Modo. It’s a new system, and the teams are better. I expect Norlinder to have a few errors early on, but get better throughout the season.

As Mr. Rönnberg has mentioned to Eyes On The Prize in previous interviews with regard to Norlinder, the young defenceman will be counted on to play his offensive style in Frölunda. There will still be the rushes, the dangles, and the highlights because “that is what Mattias does best. That is his strength.”

Also, the added kilos that Norlinder has added this off-season makes him more secure along the boards and in front of the net.

Frölunda’s next pre-season game will be on the August 27, at home against Malmö.