Adam Engström’s season ends with a ringing endorsement from the other team’s coach

Skellefteå AIK head coach Robert Ohlsson singles out the Canadiens’ prospect after eliminating Engström’s team in the playoffs.

Heading into the third period last Thursday, Adam Engström’s Rögle BK team held a 2-0 lead over Skellefteå AIK. Twenty more minutes and Rögle would have grabbed an unexpected 3-2 series lead over an opponent who had finished seven places and 27 points above them in the regular season standings.

It was not to be. SAIK flipped the script in the final regulation frame, leveling the score before winning in overtime when Filip Sandberg scored on a cross-ice pass from in close. Two days later, despite the best efforts of the green and white faithful, Rögle’s season ended on home ice with a 5-1 defeat.

Despite the distinct absence of a fairytale ending, there is a silver lining to the story for Engström, Montreal’s third-round selection in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. After the game, Skellefteå coach Robert Ohlsson was asked to give his general impressions on the game. After talking about the atmosphere at Catena Arena and praising the home supporters, Ohlsson unexpectedly singled out one particular player:

”I have loved every stride from Adam Engström, number 56, in the playoffs,” Ohlsson said. “I think he looks exquisite out there. He is a young player that dares to [actually] play hockey, I like that.”

It takes a lot to earn unprovoked praise from the opposing coach after they have just eliminated you from the playoffs, and so Eyes on the Prize took the opportunity to follow up with coach Ohlsson after the press conference.

“He has been a difficult player to coach against,” Ohlsson began. “He has repeatedly asked questions of our defenders and our forwards. He is very skilled, and he is an exciting defender to follow [in the future].” As he talked, the hockey fan in Ohlsson began to surface: “I am very impressed that such a young defender has been [able to be] so prominent in this series. I just want to repeat that I have had trouble coaching against him, and we should be happy that Swedish hockey can produce such a player.”

When asked about Engström’s ceiling and how he was relatively unheralded heading into the draft, the Skellefteå bench boss chuckled before answering: “I really don’t know. I don’t know why he wasn’t more highly touted last year, but he has done so well with Rögle, so again, it will be interesting to follow him going forward.”

Even now, Engström may still not be on the radar of Montreal Canadiens fans, but his performance speaks for himself. With five points in nine games, he finishes his first senior professional playoff campaign as his team’s leading goal-scorer and point-getter — not just among rookies or defencemen, but among all players. He’s earned the confidence of his coaches, who have deployed him on the power play, penalty kill, and even in empty net situations.

As Engström ponders the possibility of joining Rögle’s U20 team for the playoffs, we will have more from both Engström and Rögle BK coach Cam Abbott later this week.

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