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European Report: Playoffs come to Sweden

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The Russian playoffs are in their final rounds while Sweden has just begun.

IHOCKEY-EURO-SWE-CZE Photo by ANDREAS HILLERGREN/TT News Agency/AFP via Getty Images

Sweden’s playoffs started yesterday, and Finland’s are coming in a few weeks. Soon it will all be over but the contract negotiations.

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Drafted Prospects

Rodion Amirov

LW - 19 years old - shoots left - second pro year primarily in the KHL

Amirov returned to the MHL for playoffs after his KHL team was eliminated, and he’s got three assists in four games played so far. His team is in the semifinals against Dynamo Moscow’s junior club, but they are down two games to none in a best-of-five series, so it’s quite the climb to get to the finals.

There are rumours that Amirov will come to Toronto as soon as he’s out of the MLH playoffs which could be very soon. My favourite ever PPP article I wrote was one way back in the day making fun of Russian rumours. But the trouble with rumours are they might be made up out of plausible facts, gossip, true gossip or actual plans not made public anywhere else that someone gets in the same way Chris Johnston does. You never know.

Amirov is, nonetheless, not going to play on the Maple Leafs. If he can arrive in time for a game or two on the Marlies, that’s wonderful, and then he can watch the Leafs playoffs along with a host of other players and prospects. It’s possible the Leafs want to sign him now, it’s also possible they’d like him to play some more years in Russia.

Roni Hirvonen

C - 19 years old - shoots left - second pro year in Liiga

Since last month, Hirvonen has added two assists bringing his points to six goals and 14 assists in 50 games. He has four more regular season games to come, and his team is likely not going to make up enough ground to steal the last playoff spot.

Topi Niemelä

D - 18 years old - shoots right - second year primarily in the Liiga

Niemelä is still hurt, and hasn’t played since February. He might return for the playoffs if Kärpät goes deep.

Mikko Kokkonen

D - 20 years old - shoots left - fourth year pro, third in Liiga

Kokkonen looks destined to finish the season the only player on his team over 50% Corsi but with very few points. He currently has one goal and eight assists in 47 games. Jukurit is in last place, and it’s all over but grinding out the last few games of the season. They’re lucky the Liiga doesn’t do relegation anymore.

Filip Hållander

W/C - 20 years old - shoots left - fourth pro year, third in SHL

The SHL managed to reschedule some postponed games into the first week of April, so they finished the full regular season on Saturday. Attention in Sweden turns to the relegation tournament which gets more buzz than the playoffs sometimes. Fortunes are won and lost by teams in this tournament, since the share of TV revenue lost when relegated is a hard hole to climb out of.

Hållander’s team finished playing on March 29, so they are nicely rested. Luleå finished fifth, and they get to rest some more as the play-in goes on for the teams in the bottom section of playoff qualification — like our Qualifying Round last summer — and then they play Skellefteå, a team from reasonably close by which means the travel is easy, and they hate each other.

Hållander ended the regular season with 13 goals and 24 points in 51 games.

This round of the playoffs, with eight team, and the two rounds that follow are best-of-seven series, so their first round ends no later than April 20. If Luleå go all the way, Hållander will be playing until mid-May.

Kyle Dubas has said he’d recall Hållander from his loan when his season is over, so it could be while the Marlies are still in action, or it could be later. There is no clarity on what the quarantine rules would be for a European coming over, but he’d also need a visa, so it wouldn’t be instantaneous. It seems likely that he’s going to arrive to watch the Leafs in the playoffs, but not to play.

Artur Akhtyamov

G - 19 years old - catches left - first pro year in KHL/VHL, will play some MHL

Akhtyamov is playing in the opposite MHL semifinal to Amirov right now, and he’s been down from the VHL for two full rounds. In 10 games in net, he has a .925 save percentage and is one of the reasons his team is in the semis.

However, they’re up against likely the best junior team Russia has, Loko, the junior club of Lokomotiv, and they’re down two games to one.

Akhtyamov got in three VHL playoff games, where he wasn’t as effective, but his entire season has just been success building on success, so it’s all good where he’s concerned.

Dmitri Ovchinnikov

F - 18 years old - shoots L - MHL, with some KHL appearances

Ovchinnikov is done for the season.

Axel Rindell

D - 20 years old - shoots R - second year pro in Liiga

Rindell, once the twin of Kokkonen in Corsi on a bad team, has slipped down a little, likely as the team sunk in the standings. They simply have no one to score goals. He’s likely to return to Jukurit next year.

Kalle Loponen

D - 19 years old - shoots right - in Finnish U20 after one OHL season

Loponen is playing in the U20 playoffs, and their format is unusual, and in addition, one team had to withdraw because of local COVID regulations. Kärpät has played two games and is now in the finals where they play a best-of-three series over the next few days. Loponen has one assist so far, and he could well add a junior championship to his resume after being named the best defender in the league.

He needs very badly to be playing in a harder league, and he might get added to the Liiga roster for their playoffs. It’s good that he’s excelled in junior hockey, but it’s not an achievement of note. It’s the minimum any drafted player his age should be doing. Until he’s challenged by tougher games, he’s just an interesting player who can be the best player on the team when he is supposed to be.

Pontus Holmberg

W/C - 22 years old - shoots left - third SHL season

By finishing in the top two in the standings, Holmberg’s team play one of the winners of the play-in round, so they don’t know who they’re playing yet, but they get to sit back and rest until April 10.

He finished the regular season with nine goals and 14 assists in 45 games.

Signed to NHL Contract and Loaned to European Team

Filip Král

D - 21 years old - shoots left - first pro season after three in WHL, played in Czech league most of the season

Král is on the Marlies roster now, and will play when his quarantine is up. He had one goal and five assists in nine playoff games at the top level in the Czech system. Which is a league significantly less difficult than the AHL. The fact that he was good in a league possibly easier than the WHL, is good, but not meaningful. How he does in the AHL will tell a truer story of his ability.

Denis Malgin

F - 24 years old - 5 years in NHL, loaned to Lausanne of NL

Malgin is poised to begin the Swiss league playoffs soon. He currently has 18 goals and 23 assists in 44 games, or a points pace of .93. Joe Thornton had .92 points per game.

Malgin is not really a prospect, he’s a player in his prime, and if he were just someone who had never left the Swiss system, he’d be getting heaps of contract offers on this season. He plays like an NHLer in a league somewhere broadly equivalent to the lower ranked Swedish teams of the Finish Liiga.

Since he is under contract to the Leafs he can be added to their roster after the trade deadline. A fact that makes his season in Switzerland this year make a little more sense.

Switzerland is using a form of bubble concept for their playoffs, so they have a chance to go off without disruption.


And that’s the report for this month. We’ll advise when some of these players are free to come over, but until the World Championships, if there are World Championships, there’s not much going on of note right now.