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European report: Everyone is back at work again

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European teams are all back in regular action as they push to the playoffs.

Sweden v Slovakia - Quarterfinal -  2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

In Europe, the juniors are back on their teams, the teams are back in action, and the playoffs are looming. The KHL only has one more month of regular season, the other leagues a few weeks more. It is time to catch up with the European prospects.

Carl Grundström

If you are just joining the Euro prospect bandwagon, you can catch up on Grundström’s first half of the year in his midterm report card.

Grundström played very well in the World Junior Championships, but had the terrible disappointment not just of missing a medal, but of being the guy who could have scored at a crucial point in the bronze medal game. He returned home, not covered in glory, but perhaps to face increased expectations from his league-leading team Frölunda as they drive to the SHL playoffs which begin in mid-March.

He was given a chance to ease back into pro hockey with a Champions Hockey League semi-final game against Fribourg-Gotteron. They are a Swiss club that proved to be hopelessly outmatched by Frölunda, who iced their regular lineup. Frölunda won it 5-1, and Grundström managed to get no points in the contest. He was his usual friendly, net-front guy, and he had a couple of shots on goal. He looked like he was halfway ready to play again.

The second game of the two-game semifinal is on Tuesday, and the winner is decided on aggregate goals for and against, so Frölunda could use a discarded Leafs backup goalie and still win through to the finals. This game is listed as available on TSN GO, so if you want a look, watch out for that on Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm. The CHL final is in early February.

In SHL action, Grundström played his first game on Thursday, where Frölunda faced the second place team Växjö, who may also be the CHL final opponent they will face. Grundström notched an assist on Frölunda’s only goal in a 4-1 loss. He also had a team-leading five shots on goal, and when you add in the missed shots, he had seven unblocked shot attempts. His centre Johan Sundström had five, and his other winger Robin Figren, the goal scorer, had three. They were, without question, the most effective line on the ice.

Frölunda are sitting very comfortably atop the league standings, and need to work to keep focus as they play their last 17 games.

Yegor Korshkov

Korshkov fractured his leg in a game before Christmas, and is still on the injury list. The team used a formal date of January 27, when they transferred him to IR, but that was obviously merely a guess.

He reportedly went to Rome to have surgery on his leg and is rehabbing at that facility. (Link includes a picture of him in his cast.) There are also reports that his agent told Sportsnet just before Christmas that Korshkov would be out two months. It is unlikely he will be ready for the playoffs in February.

Korshkov has one more year on his KHL contract, and when he will make the move to North America is still an open question.

Jesper Lindgren and Pierre Engvall

Confession: I keep mixing these two guys up. One is a defenceman, one is a forward, one plays for a terrible team, one plays for an okay team, and, well, I don’t think either of these players will ever leave Sweden.

With 17 games left to play in their season, let’s refresh our memories on these guys.

Lindgren is the defender and he is 19. He plays for MODO, Grundström’s old team that he is very happy to have escaped from. They started very poorly this season and are still well out of the top of the league.

The goal in the Allsvenskan is to rise to the top and earn promotion to the SHL. MODO is not out of the race, but they have a long hard playoff road ahead of them if they are to do it.

Lindgren has one goal and 10 assists and that is good enough for 16th in the league for defenders and is the best on his team at that position. For all players he is 120th in points. But on his team, he is a top four defender.

Engvall is the forward and he is 20. He plays for Mora IK, and they have snuck up the standings into second place. If they hold that spot, they will have a much, much easier route to the final playoff for promotion.

Engvall has 12 goals and 14 assists, and he has dropped to 17th in the standings in points after an early flirtation with the lead. He is fourth on his own team in points, regularly plays on the top line, and is just not quite good enough to be getting a look from a good SHL team. He’s more likely to get there by staying on Mora and hoping they win promotion.

Nickolai Chebykin

Chebykin has been moving again. He played 23 games in total for the VHL this year, and he had five goals and three assists. He cooled right off into December, was pointless for most of the month and he ended up back on the junior team in the MHL in January.

Including his first two January games, where he had two goals in one game, he has 12 goals and seven assists in 14 games on the MHL team.

At 19, he hasn’t developed out of junior-level hockey, much like Vladimir Bobylev, who returned to the WHL in Canada. For both of those players the question is: will they?

If I have good information on the age rules, Chebykin ages out of the MHL after this season. He has to figure out how to produce consistently in at least the VHL or else look elsewhere for an opportunity.

In a very unexpected move (to me, I’m sure it makes sense to the team), Chebykin was put on the KHL team roster for Dynamo Moscow, the parent club, on Saturday. In 1:03 of ice time he had 2 shots on goal and scored his first KHL goal in a 5-0 win over Lada, a team widely thought to be nearly ready to collapse.

He is #62 in blue, and his goal is the second one shown.

Tune in next week to find out where he goes next!


The report will be back next week as I put it back on a regular schedule, but since it’s mostly the Grundström show right now, I’ll start looking briefly at the European draft prospects in the range the Leafs will be picking in the first round.

For this week, I’ll just add to the information in the Grundström midterm on Kristian Vesalainen, that he is back with Frölunda, not the Finnish team he had bee loaned to. He dressed as the thirteenth forward in their recent game and played only a few shifts.