The Maple Leafs have kept me busy this month, and many things have happened over in Europe since the last report over two weeks ago. This should catch us up for a while.
After the Leafs broke camp, Carl Grundström returned to Sweden. He was too late for the Champions Hockey League game on October 3, but he got into the (pointless) game on October 10. Frölunda had already got enough points to move on to the next stage.
Frölunda iced a team of young prospects and gave all the veterans the day off for the final group stage game vs French side Gap Rapaces. Frölunda easily won it, but Grundström went pointless. Meanwhile, one of their players suffered a knee injury that will see him miss much of the season. These friendly games sometimes come at a huge cost. The win gave Frölunda the highest points total for the opening round, and they seem to be on track to win this thing again. The playoff stages begin at the end of this month.
While all that distraction was going on, there were SHL games to play. Grundström’s first game back was a road trip up north and an overtime loss to Luleå where he made little impact. They returned home to face Luleå again and beat them 4-3 in a game where the teams alternated goals, with the good guys getting the last one seconds before the game ended.
Grundström had a goal and an assist and an astonishing 8 shots on goal in a game where he played on the second line. You can watch the highlights here, there’s lots of Grundström, #3 in green.
He’s at one goal and one assist in two games now.
Lokomotiv has played quite a few games since we last talked, and, well, lost most of them. They are not clicking this year. Parity in their conference below the top three teams means a playoff spot is still within reach; however, they need to right this ship. Which is exactly what I said last time.
Nothing much has changed. The lines haven’t been altered, Korshkov’s line have slipped into third line territory all the time, and they never score. The top two defenders and two forwards have all the points, most of the shots come from Staffan Kronwall, and none of this is a recipe for success. It’s all broke, and no one is trying to fix it.
Korshkov had 3 points in 19 games going into yesterday’s action. The team finally got a win and he notched another assist, but not much is going right for him this year.
That wasn’t very uplifting, and the Pierre Engvall news is worse. After going on one of his famous goal scoring streaks early and roaring up the SHL scoring list, he stopped getting points, which was to be expected.
But then he was hurt in a game, a fractured clavicle, and will be off the ice for at least three months. That takes to him a point inside the second half of the season, and depending on how his rehab goes, it might mean he’ll be out longer than that. He’s a fourth liner, there’s no guarantee his team will even have a roster spot for him when he’s back.
Jesper Lindgren’s team, HPK, is not doing very well to start the Liiga season. They are struggling to score goals and are not winning many games.
Lindgren still has just one assist, but he is shooting a lot. That said, his CF% is terrible and his Corsi +/- is the worst on the team. They’ve started playing him lower down the lineup chart, but he’s still at an average minutes of over 20 per game. They obviously need his scoring ability, but at this point in his career, he’s a glass cannon and they don’t seem to know how to deploy him to mitigate his rookie weaknesses.
After a pointless trip back to junior, Nikolai Chebykin has drawn in to two VHL games and has one assist in each game. I hope this means they keep him, but he seems to be settling at his level, and that level is below the KHL.
What that means, frankly, if we didn’t know this already, is that in North American terms he would struggle to make the AHL.
I have regained custody of Vladimir Bobylyov from seldo. He gets his name back to the spelling used in Russia, as well.
It was very confusing to suddenly read that Bobylyov had been given an AHL contract, been sent to the Solar Bears, been called back, but had gone to Russia. But is has been confirmed that he has a one-year contract with Salavat Yulaev, a good team in the East Conference. He hasn’t shown up in a game yet, however.
Now for some good news. Vladislav Kara is having a great start to his season. At 19, he’s playing a solid top six role in the VHL, and he has four goals and two assists in nine games. To say he’s doing better at a higher level than Bobylyov or Chebykin did as his age is only part of the story. He’s doing it at a higher level up the lineup too.
Kara’s club team is Ak Bars, a team that has loaded up on imports, made some trades and look like they believe they can win the cup, which they can if luck turns their way. They are currently in first in the East, so I was not expecting them to promote a kid who is just getting his feet went in pro hockey.
But on October 9, Ak Bars called the kid up and put him in a game against Torpedo. It was a 5-0 blowout, and our boy played nine shifts, just over five minutes.
But! He got in the next game, too, as a part of the fourth line group which made him the 13th forward. This one was a close game that went to a shootout, so it’s not surprising that Kara never saw the ice.
If he continues with the big club, it’s important he actually plays, otherwise, they really should send him back.