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European Report: More Pontus Holmberg scoring this week

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Pontus Holmberg keeps drawing attention his way.

Sweden v Russia - Bronze Medal Game - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship
That was Carl Grunström vs Russia. This year it might be Holmberg vs Kizimov.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Yegor Korshkov

RW - 22 years old - shoots left - fourth full KHL season

Still out injured.

Eemeli Räsänen

D - 19 years old - shoots right - first year in the KHL

Still out injured.

Jesper Lindgren

D - 21 years old - shoots right - second season in the Liiga

HPK has been having a good couple of weeks, taking three of five games. They’ve taken to running seven defenders most games, and Jesper Lindgren is either the third pair right defender or the extra on the lineup card.

His actual usage has fluctuated from the second most minutes for a right defender to under five in one game. He is very much a special teams specialist, and the team is obviously looking at their whole roster of depth defence in an effort to find what works and develop the younger players.

Lindgren has one goal and four assists now, having added one assist in the last two weeks. His Corsi is going up, and is now good relative to his team, but his on-ice shooting percentage is terrible, making him look bad at five-on-five. If the forwards aren’t scoring, the defender’s assists vanish.

The Liiga stats give time on ice by period, and Lindgren averages more minutes in the third period than in the first two, so when the chips are down, he’s the choice of the depth defenders the coach makes. He’s also averaging out as a second pair player on the strength of his power play time and his even strength minutes despite what the lineup card says.

However, in the Saturday game, Lindgren took a high-sticking penalty in overtime, and then a second defender joined him a few second later. They lost on a power play goal, naturally. That never makes you popular. So maybe if the coach wants to sit someone, he has a couple of choices.

Pontus Holmberg

LW - 19 years old - shoots left - first SHL season

Along with news that Pontus Holmberg will be playing in the WJC tuneup tournament in early November for Team Sweden, he’s also had a good stretch on the ice in the SHL, although Växjö have only played three games over the last two weeks due leading up to this weekend due to various short breaks.

The team has broken free and started to score a little, taking three games recently by scoring three or four goals in each. In Thursday’s game, Holmberg had the go-ahead goal for a long stretch, but the opponents tied it up. Växjö came out the winner in OT. In that game, Dominik Bokk was out of the lineup and Jonas Röndbjerg had been bumped off the line, giving Holmberg older, more experienced linemates. (Both Finns, and he seems destined to never play with another Swede, so I’m not sure how he’d make out in Toronto.)

That success led to he and his new friends getting the nod as the second line for the game on Saturday, where his line were shooting okay, but the team rediscovered their inability to score and lost 2-0.

Holmberg now has two goals and one assist in 12 games, and his Corsi (all-situations, and therefore swamped by powerplay shots) is second in the SHL for regular players. His on-ice shooting percentage is poor, even for his poor scoring team, so the fundamentals are all good, and the points will come. I see signs in these numbers of a very offensively-focused usage, however, so don’t get too carried away with the Corsi ranking.

In the SHL, Växjö are tied for last in goals for, but are keeping a spot in the middle of the standings.

Växjö finished their unsuccessful run in the Champions Hockey League group stage, and they likely aren’t all that sorry it’s over. The risk of injury is too high to be worth the negligible reward of saying you’re better than some Swiss and Finnish teams.

Semyon Kizimov

RW - 18 years old - shoots left - first year in the VHL

Semyon Kizimov also got the news that he’s going to the Four Nations tournament in November. This is excellent recognition for a player who could go unnoticed in the VHL.

Kizimov has had a very good couple of weeks. His ice time has pushed up to second line levels for a couple of games, his team has won all but one of their five games, and he has two goals and two assists over this stretch giving him two goals and four assists in 16 games so far.

Nikolai Chebykin

Winger - 21 years old - shoots left - third VHL season

Nikolai Chebykin added another goal in a game on Saturday, bringing his points totals to three goals in seven games. He’s not playing many minutes, so he may still not be totally healthy after whatever injury kept him out at the start of the season.

Vladislav Kara

Winger/C - 20 years old - shoots left - third pro season, first in the KHL

Over the last two weeks, Vladislav Kara, who is stuck on two assists in 21 games, has been getting some interesting usage. He was dressed but did not play in two games, he barely saw ice in two more — when you play less than the Leafs fourth line, you’re barely playing. And then on Friday, he was set as the third line winger, played 18 shifts and finished with more like second line minutes. Ak Bars won the game, but Kara’s stat line is one shot on goal and one hit.

That all looked like a coach trying to see if the player is really ready for the KHL or not. It will be interesting to see if he stays up the lineup again for today’s game or if the team decide more minutes in the VHL might be the best thing for him. I know how I’d feel if someone like Carl Grundström was playing a few shifts a game on the Leafs instead of top line on the Marlies at 20 years old. This feels like that sort of situation.


About those WJC hopes: Holmberg seems like he’s a real outside shot, once all the Swedes who are either hurt or in the AHL get added to the roster, but he’s done every single thing he can to make a case for himself. I’m very impressed with him as a 19 year old in his first SHL season.

Kizimov was very hot for Russia as a U18 last year, but they usually only go for really young players at the WJC in extraordinary circumstances. All he has to do is perform though, and he’ll get a serious look.

For the Dzierkals fans, he’s not played in several games, is not listed as injured, but his stats page for the KHL this year is a lot of zeroes. He doesn’t shoot, score, hit or block shots, all in 16-18 minutes a game. He has three assists on the season, and on a team struggling with no depth scoring, he’s not looking like part of the solution so far.

Miro Aaltonen, my favourite KHL reality check player, has 10 goals and nine assists in 22 games. The key to his success is a rate of three shots on goal per game. You do that, you score. You don’t, and you won’t.

Next week should be a fairly regular schedule of games, with the junior tournament at the week after.