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European prospects report: Patrik Laine steals the show again

It's just Andreas Johnson and the two Finnish draft prospects in action for now. But's it's championships on the line.

Puljujärvi at the start of his ride on the hype train in 2015 at the WJC.
Puljujärvi at the start of his ride on the hype train in 2015 at the WJC.
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

In case you missed it, Nikita Zaitsev's KHL season is over. We may get to see him at the World Championships in a few days though; the rosters aren't yet final.

Andreas Johnson

Frölunda is rolling along in their first chance at a championship in 10 years, but Johnson is stumbling. He hasn't been terrible, but he's not the bright shining star we might have hoped to see in this playoffs.

Game three was played on Tuesday, April 19 in Skellefteå. With the series tied at one all with two wins for the road team, it was time to see if the top team in the SHL could take one at home and take the series lead. Of course, Frölunda had other plans.

They continued the road win trend a 3-1 score on goals by Joey Crabb, Joel Lundqvist and Artturi Lehkonen. A full recap of the game with some highlights is available at Habs Eyes on the Prize.

This game may well have been the nadir of Johnson's playoffs. He played 11 minutes, had only one shot on goal, and his line was irrelevant to the score. This isn't the first time he along with Johan Sundström and Robin Figren have struggled to generate any offence, particularly in the final two rounds of the playoffs. In the past, they've bounced back from bad games.

Game four was played on Thursday back in the Scandinavium in Gothenburg, and Skellefteå was now wholly in favour of the winning on the road idea.

They opened the scoring with a stunning pass by goaltender Erik Hanses which set up a power play goal early in the second period.

Frölunda answered back with two goals in the latter half of the period, both on setups by Lehkonen. He is the absolute, unquestioned star of the SHL finals. One goal was scored on the power play by Sundström, and as Johnson's power play time has waned, Lehkonen's has risen. He's making good on the opportunities.

The teams traded goals in the third, and Frölunda got the first home win of this very close fought series with a score of 3-2, which puts them up 3 games to 1.

Johnson did have his bounce back game of a sort. He was effective on the forecheck, creating havoc in front of the opposing net, and he had five total shots with three shots on goal. His coach must have thought he was picking it up too; he played over 14 minutes in this game.

Game five is on Sunday, and Frölunda have a chance to win it all, while Johnson has maybe his last chance to put together a good game.

Jesse Puljujärvi

With his Liiga season behind him, Puljujärvi turned back into a teenager and joined the Finnish U18 team at the IIHF World Championships in Grand Forks. He played first in a round robin game against Canada on Tuesday, April 19, where Finland lost 3-1. He was described as playing well, but he was kept off the score sheet.

On Thursday, the Finns took on Russia in their quarterfinal and won it 4-3. Puljujärvi had a goal and an assist in the match.

Finland plays the USA in the semifinals on Saturday at 4pm eastern time on TSN1 and TSN3

Patrik Laine

Things haven't always gone so well for Laine in the Liiga finals. After splitting the first two games with HIFK, one of which was a 4-0 shutout of Tappara, HIFK took game three last Tuesday, April 19 in a 6-0 stomping of Laine's side. Laine did lead Tappara in shots with 7.

Game four was played Friday, and it was HIFK's opportunity to nail down a commanding 3-1 series lead. But in this one, the home side has won every game so far, so Tappara may have thought they had the edge, and it proved true.

Patrik Laine was the man of the evening. He opened the scoring with this beauty of a shot:

The higher resolution highlight video is available at Ruutu as always.

Not satisfied with that, he got an assist on the next goal while lying down, and made a slick pass to set up the third goal. Tappara: 3 and HIFK: 0, and the series is tied at two games all.

Oh, and in case you've ever wondered what it's like to be the most hyped draft pick in your country since that Puljujärvi guy was around the week before, they follow you with a camera on your in-game bathroom runs.

But when you're just a kid and you're the leading shooter in the playoffs, maybe the hype is justified.

The next game in this series is Saturday.