European Prospect Report: Mattias Norlinder’s offence makes the highlights, but his defence is also strong

Norlinder shines, Romanov earns his reward, and Dichow is left alone in a tough loss to local rivals.

Mattias Norlinder, Modo, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

The young defenceman is the one who stood out this week for Modo. Getting short minutes in his first game back the previous week, coach Hellkvist was deploying Norlinder more and more with each passing game, increasing the defender’s usage by about five minutes each game, playing 20:40 in the last match of the week.

While lot has been said about the highlight-reel goal from Norlinder’s stick. If you haven’t seen the goal, it was a magical display of the skill that the young player possesses:

Yet there were also some very good plays from Norlinder in the opposite side of the ice. Coach Hellkvist and many others see his defensive play as the main reason he’s earned a place in the Swedish second division. He showcased the defence that points to how much potential the defender really has.

Norlinder told us that his hand has healed up fully. With increased usage comes more confidence, and now getting to play a third of the game, his confidence should be getting a real boost.

Mattias Norlinder on his return to hockey, and THAT goal

Frederik Dichow, Malmö U20, SuperElite, Sweden

The Danish goalie played both games for Malmö in the Skåne rivalry against Rögle. Malmö won at home, but in the game in Ängelholm — the one I caught live — Malmö lost as they hung their goalkeeper out to dry.

It was a strange game for the big goalie as he had next to nothing to do for two periods and then early in the third period he was interfered with for a goal, but didn’t get the call. When Rögles speedy forwards got two breakaways and scored two goals, the game was more or less over, but not due to Dichow’s performance.

He looks calm and tracks the puck well. He is big but seems fairly agile and is relatively quick to get back up on his skates. Obviously there are some things to work on; he works deep in the crease and he will need to get more confident working a bit farther out, and as with all big goalies the five hole can be quite big. However, none of the goals in the second game were the result of these flaws.

Jacob Olofsson, Skellefteå AIK, SHL, Sweden

The Swedish centre played around 11 minutes in both games this week. The first was a 6-1 loss to Frölunda where he played well defensively, despite the team’s play imploding around him as the game went on. In the second game, away to HV71, Olofsson was used to good effect. His line built up pressure in the offensive zone, and he used his much bigger frame on the forecheck and along the boards.

His defensive game is secure after having had to work on it all of last season with Timrå, but he is still lacking confidence in the offensive zone. It is clear that he likes the more offensive play in Skellefteå.

Coach Tommy Samuelsson wants to take it easy with Olofsson in his return from a concussion and confirmed that his player had been off the ice completely for a week before starting to practise with the team again, with two game under his belt this week he should be getting better and more confident.

Jesse Ylönen, Lahti Pelicans, Liiga, Finland

The winger played two games this week, and notched an assist in the game against SaiPa. He was cool under pressure and handed over the puck to a teammate for the open-net goal, make the score 5-2.

In the second game, against Sport from Vaasa, the Pelicans went down 4-0, and then it became a boxing match, which Ylönen didn’t oblige the opponent in.

While he has started the season well, he only has a shooting percentage of 3.6%. Many of his shots are either rebounds from close to the goalie or ones from a bit too far away from the net, usually when he has had a successful zone entry. I expect this number to go up during the season, but it is still a bit low for a player with the shot and skill of Ylönen.

Arsen Khisamutdinov, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL) / CSK VVS Samara (VHL), Russia

Khisamutdinov played one game with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk this week, and no games for Samara in the VHL. The big attacker played for 10 minutes in the win against Dinamo Minsk.

Alexander Romanov, CSKA, KHL, Russia

Romanov earned coach Nikitin’s trust and got to play double his normal time in the Army game against SKA. He started very well, and even when he made a mistake he adjusted and sorted it out himself. He displayed some incredible skill not to trip or slash the player he was defending and just poke away the puck. Look at how he avoids the skates of the SKA player with his stick.

This cross-ice pass was the finish to an already great night in arguably the greatest matchup there is outside the NHL.

CSKA played Finnish team Jokerit on Wednesday, and again Romanov was paired with former Canadiens defenceman Nikita Nesterov. The stability and the focus that Romanov gives his defence at this level with a player like Nesterov on his side is great, and the game against Jokerit was evidence that Romanov can perform at the highest level.

The last game was against Torpedo, and Romanov was paired with Klas Dahlbäck as Nesterov was rested, and there was some trouble. Both Dahlbäck and Romanov shoot left, so at any given time one had to play on their off-side. Romanov was also asked to do more offensive work (including playing on the power play).

While I think it was the right game to do it in, the partnership wasn’t a success. Romanov looked nervous at times and especially with the man advantage. However it should be encouraging for his development if this wasn’t just a one-time thing, but rather the next step of his development. He has shown that he can lead the offence for a team against players his own age, now he should start to learn how to manage it against the top players outside of the NHL.

He has worked hard to earn that chance. He has without a doubt been one of CSKA’s best defenders so far this season, and that coach Nikitin seems to have recognized that fact too can only be positive.

Injured: Joni Ikonen, KalPa, Liiga, Finland

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