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European report: it’s all over but the ATOs

There’s not much league play left in Europe. Now it’s get an ATO to the Marlies or get started on summer.

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
Two month out from another draft, some of the older prospects are showing off for the coaches in Canada.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Carl Grundström

Last week at this time, Frölunda’s second round series with Brynäs was tied up at two games each.

On Monday, Frölunda dominated game five, outshooting Brynäs and taking the game 4-0 against a team that simply seemed to have checked out. Felix Sandström, the Brynäs goalie, had been their best player in the previous games, and yet he was easy to beat in this one.

With a 3-2 lead, all Frölunda had to do was put it away in game six. They tried, you have to give them that, they really laid it on the line. They outshot Brynäs again, but just could not solve Sandström who was back on form. Meanwhile in their own end, their goaltending disintegrated and Brynäs took that one 6-0.

The series was tied at three games all.

In both of the blowouts, Carl Grundström, playing with Johan Sundström, had a lot of shots on goal, a lot of shots in general, and no points. Not only is he not scoring, his line isn’t either. The frustration of their lack of production was clear, and yet all of them, Grundström included, were playing well. The scoring for the team was coming, when it did come, from a couple of other hot hands.

Game seven was Friday, and Frölunda had been there before: they needed overtime in their first round game seven to advance.

It looked like game six all over again, only this time Sandström was even better in net for Brynäs. Frölunda outshot Brynäs 65 to 30 in unblocked shots. Sandström made 37 saves while Frölunda’s Johan Gustafsson managed 15. The on again-off again goaltending had turned off at exactly the wrong time for last year’s champion.

The final score was 3-1 Brynäs and they advance while Frölunda are done for the year, much earlier than they would have liked.

Grundström did what he always does, dig for the puck, drive the net, shoot a lot and yet again he failed to score. He is one of the most consistent players on the ice in everything but scoring results.

Now that it’s all over, Grundström’s season looks different than it did at the WJC where he played very well. At that time he was leading the SHL in goals. He stopped scoring, and that should have been expected; his shooting percentage was massively inflated. What wasn’t expected was that he completely stopped. He was as cold in the second half as he was hot in the first, and yet his game never changed.

In the playoffs, he had two points, one more than his centre Sundström, who missed some time. And that was at least part of the reason why the team lost—that line’s lack of production. Sundström was tournament MVP last year, and he got that accolade playing first with Andreas Johnsson, who faded badly in the playoffs, and then other wingers who were better snipers than Grundström is.

Grundström looks like a utility player—tough, focused, dogged on the puck and at only 19, just 19 last December, he plays like a bigger man against teams of even bigger men. If he has a future in the NHL, it might be that, not his scoring touch that gets him there.

That said, don’t forget that he shoots the puck an absolute tonne and can be counted on to always be in the slot, right in the crease, ready for something to happen. Compare him to Leo Komarov who never shoots the puck and yet plays a similar style of game offensively.

Rumours still say Grundström will get his ELC soon, and he’s under contract to Frölunda for another year, so he can turn 20 on a good team with a good coach, and we can watch and see how he develops.

He doesn’t get to rest, though. He has been named to Sweden’s national team for two friendlies against Belarus next weekend. Also going along for the ride is his teenage sensation of a teammate, Rasmus Dahlin. It would be very surprising if these two make the cut once the NHLers are added to the squad, but it’s still quite the feat to be chosen so young.

Nikolai Chebykin

Dynamo Balashikha have taken a 2-0 lead in their playoff final on two wins that allowed only one goal against. Nikolai Chebykin has dropped in ice time back to a third or fourth line amount, and the coach seems to be a what have you done for me lately sort of guy who wants to play the hot hands.

Game three goes Monday, and it sure looks like they’ll be all done and dusted by the end of the week.

Jesper Lindgren and Pierre Engvall

In case you missed the news, both of these prospects are in Canada with the Marlies on ATOs. They did not play on Friday or Saturday in the last games of the season. The Marlies had not clinched their playoff position before the last game. They ended up in second place and will face the defensively tough Albany Devils in the first round.

It was in a game versus Albany last year where Andreas Johnsson suffered a concussion.

Yegor Korshkov and Vladimir Tkachyov

As mentioned last week, both players were with the Russian B team for a friendly against France. In the first game of two, the Russians were embarrassed by a scoreless tie that was decided in overtime by a goal from Damien Fleury. Russia played exceedingly well in the game, dominated in zone time, and couldn’t score.

In that game Tkachyov was the top unit centre and Korshkov was on the fourth unit with Pavel Kraskovsky, his usual linemate.

In the second game on Saturday, Tkachyov was bounced to the fourth unit with Korshkov, Kraskovsky and an extra young forward in Anatoly Golyshev. Korshkot to Tkachyov and back to Korshkov was the final goal of the game that made it 6-0 Russia. They don’t like embarrassing losses, I guess.

This event was a chance for Russia to look at their U25 players and see who they want on the A team for the World Championships. With the KHL finals moving to a conclusion, perhaps today, the choices for the Czech Hockey games coming up this month are wide open.

That’s all there is for right now, next week I’ll wrap up the last man standing: Nikolai Chebykin, and you all saw that coming. When the world championships start I’ll watch out for any Leafs prospects or people of interest in that event as well.