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European Prospect Report: Mattias Norlinder learns a few lessons in a rough week

The defenceman made a few bad choices, but he’s being given the chance to learn from them.

Tommy Holl TT

Mattias Norlinder, Frölunda, SHL, Sweden

Frölunda has been more down than up the last few weeks, however they are still residing sixth in the table. The team played one game this week and it was an atrocious game in most ways as Frölunda lost 4-0 on the road to a team fighting to avoid the relegation series, Malmö.

The first goal against looked a lot like the second video attached in this segment of the article, however it was Stefan Elliott that made the high-risk play on the blue line on the power play and sprung the Malmö player for a breakaway goal.

Norlinder’s mistakes came as Frölunda was down 2-0, and they could have happened because he was trying to force the game Frölunda’s way. The end result matters, and in the end it was two quite big mistakes.

The first one came when Norlinder tried to go for the bodycheck on the attacker, who avoided it and got an easy setup for the goal. It was a play that demanded timing, and it was the first time I have really seen Norlinder try it under this kind of pressure, 2-0 down and trying to cause a turnover and a potential game-changing play, which shows that he is still under development.

The second mistake is a bad one, moreso than the first. Norlinder and his defensive partner, Sigalet, can’t decide whats going on, and Malmö can counter and score.

The good thing is that Roger Rönnberg, the coach of Frölunda, wants to have Norlinder make the high-risk plays and he won’t bench him after, Norlinder was still playing every other shift in the last few minutes of the game. He will slowly get to learn from the mistakes in a positive atmosphere in order to fully understand what he needs to change to make the plays work in other games.

Against Malmö, Nolinder was the third-most-used skater on the team. Mr. Rönnberg knows that Norlinder can be the game-changer that he needs, and it also shows that Norlinder is fully healed up after a season that has been marked by small injuries.

It is important to know that quite a few teams in the SHL have made splashes on the transfer market this season, including asking fans to chip in for the transfer of certain players. Frölunda has declined to do so in order to not risk long-term damage to the economy in a year that has caused them to lose a lot of money due to no spectators. Anton Rasegård and I held Frölunda as one of the favourites for the trophy this season, before it started. Even if other teams have added players, that has cost a lot of money.

The smartest signing is a loan from the Detroit Red Wings as Moritz Seider has been one of the absolute best players in SHL this season for Rögle, which looks set for a deep playoff run. One can only speculate how it could have benefitted Cole Caufiled to play there, as Rögle was one of the teams that was asking for the Habs prospect to join them for the season.

Joni Ikonen, Ilves, Liiga, Finland

Ikonen played three games this week, something that is to be considered positive. He was set to start the last two on the second line and as a centre; also positive. Unfortunately for Ikonen, his time on ice shrank with every game, and in Saturday’s game versus JYP he played slightly less than 12 minutes. His faceoff success has also fallen during the last couple of matches.

It has been eight games since Ikonen scored a point, and while he hasn’t struggled with the pace from what I have seen, he has struggled with his defensive-zone coverage. Sometimes he has puck-watched and gotten drawn out of position, leaving opposing players in good scoring positions. Ikonen has been rusty at times, something that is to be expected, but it won’t help him make his case for Montreal to sign him in the off-season.

Alexander Gordin, SKA-1946, MHL, Russia

One game and two assists for Gordin, I have a longer sequence on his first assist:

He displays some good vision and puck control on the second assist as he passes the puck in decent speed from behind the net.

Jacob Olofsson, Timrå IK, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

Timrå is just building for the playoffs, and it has been an up-and-down week for the team as it makes sure to avoid injuries before the final push starts.