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European Report: Pontus Holmberg and Jesper Lindgren take centre stage

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Vladislav Kara takes a step back, and the injured are still not ready to return.

2015 NHL Draft - Portraits Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

This week, I had no time to watch anyone, and the two biggest prospects are off the ice. This will be a brief update on how the games went. Meanwhile in related European player news, we know that Rasmus Sandin is not ready to play, but his ultimate destination this season remains unknown. It’s looking like the Leafs want to play him in at least some Marlies games before they decide.

Yegor Korshkov

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

Still injured.

Eemeli Räsänen

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

Still injured.

Jesper Lindgren

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

I’m not really sure what HPK is doing with Jesper Lindgren. And maybe they’re confused too. They list him consistently as the third pairing D, and then he plays in excess of 20 minutes every game. Part of, perhaps most of, this is that he is a top power play point man.

He notched his first goal of the season in a dismal 4-1 loss on the power play one day after the team won one. On Saturday, Lindgren did the third-pair but 20 minutes thing again and led the team in shots on goal.

He’s currently got a CF% of over 55, but before you get excited, good players in the Liiga have CF percentages that would make Bergeron look bad. Lindgren is 17th on his team, so he’s just not driving play at all relative to team average. He has one goal and two assists in 10 games so far.

Pontus Holmberg

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

A very kind and helpful Swedish reader pointed out to me that I’d missed the SHL website adding Corsi and Fenwick data to their stats. So this week, we can check on Pontus Holmberg’s shotshare, and hoo boy, is it nice. He’s at 61%, and is 23rd in the league.

One huge caveat is that this is not even-strength Corsi, it appears to be all situations, and... I don’t get that. But it’s what there is. On his team, Holmberg is very high up, so he is getting the job done as a third line centre who might not be playing the toughest competition on his team.

He has one goal and one assist in eight games so far.

Växjö played one Champions Hockey League game against a British league team and won it easily, as they should. Holmberg had one assist in the game. They play that team again next week, but they’ve already lost the chance to advance out of their group. This is a surprise, even though they’re in a tough group with one of the best Swiss teams who beat them twice and a team from the EBEL who surprised them with one win.

The struggle of Växjö to score goals seems to show up against even weaker competition. In the SHL, they’re in the muddy middle of teams who might not make the playoffs.

Holmberg might well be the sleeper hit of the 2018 draft, but it’s hard to tell on a team that rarely scores.

Semyon Kizimov

RW - 18 years old - shoots left - no pro experience, may play junior another year

Lada only played one game since last week, as the VHL had a break. They finally lost one, so they slipped to second in the standings. Semyon Kizimov is still at two points in 10 games.

Nikolai Chebykin

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

Nikolai Chebykin played in his team’s single game this week, and he’s now at two points in three games.

Vladislav Kara

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

Ak Bars played three games this past week, and they won them all. Vladislav Kara has been playing steady minutes on the fourth line, but for these three games, they dressed four forwards for this unit, and Kara very much became the 13th forward. He played less than five minutes in the first two and got just over six in the Saturday game when it turned into a blowout.

This is not a terrible thing for a young guy on a top team, but I hope it doesn’t portend a demotion to the VHL.


The “not likely to ever play for the Leafs again” crew: Miro Aaltonen and Martins Dzierkals are keeping on as expected as a top line C and a depth winger respectively. They seem very stable in their roles.