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Montreal Canadiens prospects: Grading Jacob Olofsson’s season

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In what was supposed to be a season of improvement, Olofsson kept slipping backward.

Tommy Holl TT

It was a roller-coaster season for Jacob Olofsson. While it finished on a high with Timrå earning the qualification to the SHL on a 4-1 series win over Björklöven, it was mostly downhill for the Montreal Canadiens prospect throughout the season.

Starting the season with Skellefteå AIK, a team that went on to finish fourth in the SHL, Olofsson was moved to the wing because of the centre depth of the team, and he was not really comfortable in that position. This led to a chance to leave Skellefteå AIK and join his old team, Timrå IK, a team that was rolling through the second division, HockeyAllsvenskan, with their sights set on a return to SHL through the promotion process.

Olofsson’s return wasn’t spectacular; Timrå’s first line of Jonathan Dahlén, Jens Lööke and Albin Lundin got most of the time on the power play and was the first choice for any offensive-zone faceoff. Timrå head coach Fredrik Andersson kept Olofsson on the wing in a more defensive role to make use of his faceoff talent, a skill he worked on in his time in Skellefteå.

He finished the season with 20 points (9G, 11A) in 36 games, and a faceoff percentage of 52.8%, second on the team with over 200 faceoffs taken. In the playoffs Olofsson was sixth in his team’s scoring, with three points (2G, 1A) in 15 games, miles behind the powerful first unit. He was also used less in the faceoff circle.

Strengths/Weaknesses

Olofsson’s strength has always been his hockey IQ, which he has tons of. Sweden’s World Juniors coach, Tomas Montén, said in an interview with Eyes On The Prize, “Olofsson could probably play goalie, he has that much hockey IQ and understanding of the game.” The question is if he has too much and had a bit of an easier time through his Junior career as a result, especially considering his size.

The enigma is that if he has such a strong grasp of the game, why does he have difficulty sticking in a centre role? Coaches rarely shift players to the wing who show such aptitude. In fact, he feels he gets lost a bit when playing wing, saying it’s difficult to play on the periphery and not go into the centre of the ice to be the playmaker. At 6’2” and close to 200 pounds, he makes for an interesting option as a power forward, but he still needs to expand his repertoire in regard to his shot while using it more to fulfil that role.

He can forecheck with the best of the players in HockeyAllsvenskan, but as we have seen since his draft year, the difference between Sweden’s first division and second division is quite steep, and he hasn’t been able to make that transition yet. It’s important to note that he has suffered some terrible injuries and a big concussion along the way.

Grade: D

It is tough to grade someone with a low grade, but Olofsson couldn’t stick to a team in the SHL and he didn’t turn into an impact player in his return to the lower level. There are mitigating factors — his shoulder injury and concussion from last season — however there are also other reasons for this evaluation.

The fact that he can’t seem to produce offensively is one of the biggest. Olofsson has gone from a season in HockeyAllsvenskan in 2017-18 where he had 21 points (10G, 11A) in 43 games, to this year when he had 20 points (9G, 11A) over the season. It’s not pointing to a strong development curve in a lower tier of professional hockey.

It remains to be seen where on the ice Olofsson lines up next year in the SHL, centre or wing, but with the recent additions through the draft that Montreal has made it is tough to see him making an impact at either AHL on NHL level in a couple of years. He might turn this around with a stellar season in the SHL next year, but expectations will start low.