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European Report: back to work in regular league games

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With the November break over, it’s back to work for all but the injured.

2015 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
I wonder if Jesper Lindgren every imagined he be playing in Finland in 2018?
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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

Oh, to be Jesper Lindgren and never know what line you’re playing with one game to the next. With the November break over, HPK got back to work on their three games this week. they won two, and have moved up to fourth in the standings.

In the first game, a close win, Lindgren began on the third pair and played about second pair minutes, but he was kept off the scoreboard.

In game two, a loss, he was started on the third pair again, but this time with the big bruiser he seems to be competing with for a right-D spot. It would be like playing Connor Carrick with Roman Polak. Oh wait, the Stars actually did that. In the HPK version of that trick, it was Miro Karjalainen who got the goal, while neither of them played much.

In the third game, an overtime win, you won’t be surprised to learn that Lindgren was on the top pair, played 23 minutes and got an assist on the game winning goal. I don’t know what the coach is trying to achieve, and I assume it’s something, but this epic line blender has to be wearing on the players.

Lindgren now has seven points in 20 games, good for second among defenders on his team. He has an absurdly high Corsi For percentage, one you can only get in the Liiga, and he’s tops for defenders on his team in that measure.

Pontus Holmberg

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

Pontus Holmberg came home from Four Nations and got right to work. He played in three games, two wins and one overtime loss, and Växjö, who have learned to score a little, have moved up to seventh in the standings. Sixth is where you get a bye to the second round of the playoffs, so they aren’t there yet.

His first game back was a fun one, as Holmberg had a goal — the game winner — and an assist all in less than 12 minutes of TOI.

His next two games were duller, but he’s playing second/third line minutes regularly again. I watched the OT loss to Färjestad, and his line just weren’t a factor. Some days are like that.

He has three goals and four assists in 18 games, and sits in seventh place on his team in points.

Next week is a regular grind of games, but the selection for the WJC team will be soon, and he has to be thinking about that.

Semyon Kizimov

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

Semyon Kizimov went right back to work too after Four Nations, playing two games, but not getting on the scoresheet. He seems to be in a bit of a slump, and I’d hoped his Four Nations goals would kickstart something, but no luck. His team are in second place though, so playoffs seem a given.

Nikolai Chebykin

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

Nikolai Chebykin broke through with a goal in one of his two games this week. He’s now got four goals and one assist on the year.

Vladislav Kara

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

Vladislav Kara is sticking in the top six on his VHL team. He played two games this week, but was kept off the scoresheet. His VHL totals are two assists in seven games, and both points came in his first game after being sent down. His team is nowhere near the class of Kizimov’s however.


Since I talked about him a bit last week, Nils Höglander, the 2019 draft prospect who is said to have caught the eye of Leafs scouts a couple of weeks ago, scored his first two SHL goals as soon as he returned from Four Nations. He has five points in 18 games now.

Martins Dzierkals is back to not playing again, and his old Solar Bears teammate and former Leafs draft pick J.J. Piccinich is getting leapfrogged on the Newfoundland Growlers this season by new players, some of them younger. They both had similar ECHL points last season, but they might both be hitting the realization that their ambition exceeds their ability.

Miro Aaltonen’s torrid points pace has fallen off a little, and he’s at 24 points in 29 games. That’s 13th in the KHL for forwards. And he is still the best reality check going on European performance.

I saw a note that some DEL scouts were at a couple of AHL games. It will get harder and harder to keep players like the Marlies points leader this year Chris Mueller. The money they’ll get offered to go to Europe will be very tempting considering how much more reasonable the schedule and travel is. And to get players to come back the other way, they have to get more out of it than an AHL championship.

That’s it for this week.