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European Prospect Report: Rest day for Joni Ikonen causes some confusion

Our weekly look at Montreal Canadiens prospects in Europe.

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Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga, Finland

The combined fan bases of Ilves and Canadiens were worried as Ikonen was held out of the line up in Wednesday’s game against TPS, especially considering that Ilves didn’t announce anything before the game. Most people expected Ikonen to have suffered another injury, however in the end Ilves confirmed that Ikonen had a maintenance/resting day due to a full schedule.

Ikonen started the week by hitting the post, and getting an assist as Ville Meskanen buried the rebound.

In Friday’s game vs Kärpät, Ikonen got the chance in the penalty shootout, but he missed his attempt. Ikonen lost almost 70% of the faceoffs he took against Kärpät and now has below 50% faceoff success since his return.

I have to say I like the management of Ikonen from the coaches in Ilves, making sure he doesn’t over do it on his return to hockey after a long time on the sidelines. We will have to see if this continues over the upcoming weeks as Ilves’ schedule is quite compacted due to the extended COVID-19 break they enforced in December.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

Olofsson got another assist in a week where Timrå, for once, didn’t outscore their opponent by 2-1, but games were close and Timrå even lost one game in overtime to a surging AIK. Still. Timrå sits comfortable on top of the table and is eyeing the promotion series in what is a clear goal for the season.

Olofsson is earning more TOI with every week, and even while only having played half the season with Timrå he has taken third most faceoffs and is the second best faceoff taker (with over a 100 faceoffs taken) with 53.71% wins on 283 faceoffs. Earlier in the season Olofsson mentioned to me that he has worked out in the gym and strengthened his core, and it seems to have paid off in the faceoff circle. If that confidence can translate into scoring, Laval should be a first stop for Olofsson when his contract with Timrå is up.

Alexander Gordin, SKA 1946, MHL, Russia

For once it isn’t the scoring that stands out for the Russian this week, but rather the defensive game as his defensive reads once more shows up in the stat line. In what can be described as a top game in the MHL, Loko (Lokomotiv) and SKA-1946 (SKA St.Petersburg) matched up. As SKA got a man advantage deep into third period when tied at zero Gordin lined up as a defender on the faceoff, and was outpaced by the Loko forward. (Gordin wears number 78 for the white team).

There are some interesting things to take from this video.

First, Gordin skating technique isn’t strong, the strides are short, and he almost falls over in the acceleration phase. He is also getting outpaced by the opposing forward with ease.

Second, He almost seems to lose power and goes gliding far too early.

Third, it is a tough pass to cover, it’s an alley-oop kind of play and the puck bounces. However, he focuses on the puck not the opposing player trying to force the player out of the area. There is also the thought process that he could trip the player as he misses the puck, meaning his team would go to a 4-on-4 situation rather than a long penalty kill.

The second goal of the game came when SKA had pulled the goalie and Gordin wasn’t involved in the play.

For me there is no doubt that Gordin has a scoring touch, even if he shoots 17.8% at the moment in a weak league, something that I don’t think is sustainable in the long run. It is the skating that is the biggest weakness and something that you rarely speak about in regards to a Russian player. The question is if he can iron that out over the offseason, not to become an ace skater, but just a close to average one, because that is what will decide his future in the Canadiens organization.

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

No games for Mattias this week as the SHL is on a break due to the international tournament in Stockholm.