The SHL has started, with 50 spectators in the stands as the Swedish government has decided that having more people in the crowd is too risky at the moment. The SHL clubs are hoping this will change over the season as many will face economically difficulties if the full season goes ahead without any people in the stands.
Unfortunately the rules will impact the European Prospect Report as well, as only daily Swedish media get access at this time, therefore interviews and comments might be more scarce than normal during this season.
Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden
The focus for many, until the draft at least, will be Mattias Norlinder. The defender has moved from Modo in HockeyAllsvenskan to Frölunda in the SHL. The step up in competition should give Montreal fans an indication on where Norlinder stands in regards to NHL preparedness.
One thing is clear, Norlinder has used the summer to strengthen up and he looks a lot bigger on the ice. The coaches in Frölunda have worked hard in order to better his core and balance in order to minimize the risk for concussions, as Norlinder had one last season.
His hockey IQ is there for everyone to see, along with his skating, first when he recovers after having joined the rush where he is careful to never let his attacker out of his sight when he skates back to defend.
Hockey IQ on display, #Habs Mattias Norlinder checks his shoulders four times, to make sure he has his attacker covered.— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) September 27, 2020
Djurgården's coach Ohlsson described this as the best way of recognizing hockey IQ, as does @JhanHky pic.twitter.com/J3xUzYuWkl
The second example is when he joins the rush in the third period, a couple of strides and he has caught up with the attack and gets a good chance to score from right in front of the net.
However, before that chance Norlinder had already scored, a goal that was to become the game winner as Frölunda won 2-0, clinching it with an empty net goal.
Norlinder got in close before firing a big shot on a feed from Lucas Raymond on the power play and the Djurgården goalie didn’t stand a chance as the puck was in the net before he could even react.
Norlinder has had a good pre-season, and it is good for the Montreal prospect to get going early in the regular season too. Norlinder has been prominent on the first power play unit and was even used in at the end of the game when Djurgården had pulled the goalie, Roger Rönnberg really shows how much confidence he has in the young defender. Norlinder finishes the two opening games of the SHL season with one goal and just over 18 minutes of ice time per game.
Before the season we spoke with Roger Rönnberg about Mattias Norlinder, and you can listen to that interview here:
Frölunda has two wins from two games and has not let in a goal so far in the season. That feat is something that has only happened twice before during the opening two games in the SHL, during the 1996-97 season when AIK did it and Leksand in the 1992-93 season.
Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden
The big centre has been moved to the wing as Skellefteå AIK has a whole team of centres, and Olofsson has managed quite well so far. He plays well along the boards, he is bigger and protects the puck quite well. However he still takes the shots from quite far away and it makes for easy saves, saves that doesn’t even generate rebounds.
Skellefteå has one win and one loss so far, Olofsson has seen limited ice time and is currently averaging just below 10 minutes a game. There is an explanation to this though; the Swedish referees have been given the mandate to cut down on illegal defensive plays (slashings, holds and hookings) and a lot of minor penalties are being called. Something that means that Olofsson doesn’t get to play as much as he would like.
We spoke to Skellefteå coach Stefan Hedlund before the season to hear his thoughts on Olofsson:
Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga, Finland
Still injured, and last thing we heard is that he wasn’t cleared for on ice contact yet.
Lucas Vejdemo, Jesse Ylönen and Otto Leskinen are all on loan to European clubs until the NHL/AHL season starts in North America, however their leagues won’t start until next week.
Anton Rasegård and myself previewed the SHL season in this podcast: