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European Prospect Report: Mattias Norlinder continues to take huge strides

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Our weekly update of Montreal Canadiens prospects in Europe.

Tommy Holl TT

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Mattias Norlinder was one of the standout players for Frölunda this week, not only for scoring two goals but for his overall play. He looked to be more of the Norlinder that started the season and who was selected to the National team.

Norlinder scored his fourth goal of the season in the game against Luleå with Frölunda winning after turning the game around. With Frölunda on the power play, the defenders got deeper and deeper into the Luleå end, and when a Norlinder got an opportunity he blasted the puck into the net.

In the second game of the week, Frölunda faced Djurgården and it was clearly Norlinder’s best performance since his first injury this season. He even scored a goal off a defender. Norlinder was Frölunda’s best player on the ice in the OT loss looking stable, secure and poised.

He was secure defensively, had quite a few successful zone entries and was involved in the offensive play — as we have gotten used to him being. He hit the bar with a wicked wrister, from more or less the same position where he scored earlier, deep into the opponent's zone and engaging in the offence.

The game finished 2-2 and went to overtime where one of the absolute top 2021 NHL Draft picks, William Eklund, got the puck while Norlinder was on defence. Norlinder clearly made the best play by taking out the second attacker who is also a top 2020 NHL draft pick, Alexander Holtz, and leaving the shooter to the goalie. Unfortunately for Norlinder, Eklund has quite the shot and scored.

One can argue that Norlinder should have gotten closer to Eklund to sell the play better, but let’s also remember it's 3-on-3 and big ice. Theoretically, it was the right play. We can argue about it in the comments but it would also be with the benefit of hindsight.

Norlinder was used in all situations and his TOI increased to what it was earlier in the season, pointing to the fact that he is getting back into shape and should only get better with more play as the season winds down and teams are getting ready for the playoffs.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

Olofsson continues to impress with a secure play. With Timrå being so strong it is hard to judge his development fairly. I will assess Olofsson when Timrå starts the playoff series and they try to earn a promotion to SHL. Games will mean more, and Olofsson will face tougher competition.

It is, however, good to see Olofsson play with confidence and with a smile. It has been far too long since that has happened. In Timrå he plays with old friends and he isn’t scared to fail. Part of this is that Timrå is the best team in the league and they have extra gear that they can use when needed. In Sunday's game, they were down 4-1 going into the last period before switching it on to win it in overtime. The team relies on a top line that is incredible, and it benefits Olofsson as the pressure is lower.

I am looking forward to seeing what Olofsson can do when the game is on the line, and the competition is better. That is when we will know how he has developed in Timrå this season.

Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga, Finland

Ikonen played on Ilves fourth line this week but still saw power-play time and time on the ice as Ilves pushed for the equalizer with an empty net. The offensive output that we saw from Ikonen between the injuries, and in the first games when he came back after the most recent one, has dried up.

Ikonen has no problems with his knee, at least from what I can tell, but he needs a confidence boost. You can also see that he is a bit rusty, something that can be expected, as he is drawn out of position defensively at times. More games will benefit Ikonen, but Montreal will have to make a decision in regards to Ikonen after this season and right now it seems to be an easy decision to make.

Alexander Gordin, SKA 1946, MHL, Russia

SKA will go into the MHL playoffs next week and Gordin will be part of that team. Gordin has 40 points in his 48 games played. For comparison, the leader in MHL, Stepan Nikulin of Loko, has 72 points.

In order to understand the MHL and the Russian development system better, we had Miss Gillian Kemmerer join the Habsent Minded podcast where she shared a few things that she had heard from SKA in regards to Gordin. You can listen to that episode below:

We will continue to follow Gordin throughout the playoffs.