The most exciting part of the SHL season has officially begun. The first playoff rounds are now behind us, so it is the perfect time to look at the most important news and updates from the past month. We have seen wins, defeats, and all kinds of emotions behind it. Prospects went through ups and downs with their teams, so there is a lot to discuss.
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- Lucas Raymond has signed his first NHL contract. The Red Wings’ fourth overall pick from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft agreed on a standard three-year, entry-level deal beginning with the 2021-22 season.
- The same applies to the Devils’ seventh overall selection from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Alexander Holtz. The 19-year-old winger has signed a three-year, entry-level contract that kicks in in the next campaign. However, he also signed an Amateur Try-Out with Binghamton, Devils’ AHL team, for the remainder of this season.
- The third player that has recently signed his first NHL contract is the Jets prospect, Simon Lundmark. Winnipeg’s second-round pick from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft agreed on a three-year, entry-level deal that kicks in in the 2021-22 season.
- Karl Henriksson (NYR) and Oskar Bäck (DAL) have signed their three-year, entry-level deals as well. Both of them begin in the 2021-22 campaign.
- Red Wings prospect Moritz Seider, has been nominated for the SHL’s Defenseman of the Year Award. The other two finalists are Jesse Virtanen (Färjestad BK) and Joel Persson (Växjö Lakers).
- Sabres’ fifth-round selection from the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, Filip Cederqvist, has signed a contract with Djurgården IF that runs through the 2022-23 campaign. The 20-year-old forward spent the last season in Tingsryds AIF in HockeyAllsvenskan. He appeared in 51 outings and recorded nine goals and 36 points.
- Joe Veleno is currently practicing in Detroit, as his tenure with Malmö Redhawks already ended after the first round of this year’s playoffs. Veleno played in 46 contests for the club from the third-largest city in Sweden and tallied 11 goals and 20 points.
Fredrik Karlström, LW, Växjö Lakers HC (Dallas Stars)
Karlström is just shining in the playoffs. He timed his best form of the season perfectly and now is one of the most crucial players on the team. He has been showing great poise around the net and an excellent finishing touch in decisive moments of the game. Are four goals in the four outings, while three of them were game-winning, all the proof we need to call him a difference-maker?
Karlström’s performance throughout the season has not been the most consistent scoring-wise. The 23-year-old winger marked four goals in the first eight contests of the campaign and then went on a stretch of 43 outings with only six tallies. Nonetheless, it looks like he refilled his gun powder and now is the second-best goalscorer in the playoffs, just behind Per Åslund (Färjestad BK) and tied with Emil Larsson (Örebro HK).
If we look at the quality of shots he takes, it is apparent that he has been a dangerous weapon with some needed luck. Since the start of the playoffs, he has had 1.76 expected goals. It may seem like not much, but it is enough to put him in the eleventh place overall. The three game-winning tallies are just no coincidence. He has the right mindset to execute in pivotal moments, which is ultimately, the most important thing for a forward like him in the playoffs.
I am curious to see whether he can keep this momentum in the semifinals against Örebro. I truly liked what I have seen from him during the Lakers’ sweep of Färjestad in the quarterfinals. He brought a lot of energy to the table and was very good at finding scoring positions. We will see how he can carry the focus and diligence into the semifinals.
Pontus Holmberg, C, Växjö Lakers HC (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Holmberg is another example of a player with perfectly timed playoff form. The 22-year-old centerman currently sits with Karlström at the top of the Lakers scoring sheet with two goals and six points after four contests. Coaches have been using him in all situations, which positively affected his average ice time. Since the start of the playoffs, this number has increased from 16:13 to 18:32.
Holmberg spent all four games on the same line with Fredrik Karlström, and they complemented each other quite well. The Stars prospect was an active shooter, while Holmberg mostly prefers passing the puck. He is a versatile player with no flashy plays but a consistent effort all around the ice. I am super excited to see how the chemistry between the two prospects will crystalize going forward.
Jack Drury, C, Växjö Lakers HC (Carolina Hurricanes)
Jack Drury’s consistency throughout his first year in Sweden has been unbelievable. Despite being injured for almost a month earlier this year, when he missed 11 contests, he has maintained great performances and continues doing so in the playoffs. After four outings, the 21-year-old American recorded one tally and four points with an average ice time of 17:44.
I have liked what I have seen from him so far. Drury is the type of player who craves for the puck in the offensive zone, which is so much fun to watch. He loves to have the game under control. He often cruises all around the ice with the puck just glued to his stick. I love his ability to set the tone of the game just by using his great play-driving talents.
Even when we look at his possession stats, we can see that he has been just dominating around the opponent’s net. Throughout the four-game period in the playoffs, he has helped the Lakers immensely. Växjö has fired almost 55 shot attempts per 60 minutes with Drury on the ice while allowing just slightly over 37 of them on the other end of the rink. That makes it for an excellent 59.55 Corsi for percentage. Lakers have also been shooting almost 12 attempts per 60 minutes more with Drury in the middle of the action. He is a beast when it comes to managing the game, and he proves it every night.
Mattias Norlinder, LHD, Frölunda HC (Montreal Canadiens)
I think there should be no doubt that Norlinder was one of the best players wearing Frölunda jersey in the playoffs this year. The 20-year-old defenseman brought a lot of energy and offensive boldness to the table, which resulted in him being the top-scoring player on the team. After seven outings, he finished the campaign with three goals, five points, and an average of 18 minutes of ice time. He also blocked the highest amount of shots (6) and scored the most power-play goals (2) on the team.
Norlinder is already at this young age known for his fearlessness. He oozes confidence when he has the puck on his stick, especially in the offensive zone or during a transition. Although, this time, the level of his self-assurance seemed to be even higher than usual. He was not afraid to step up his offense multiple times in a game when his teammates were struggling to score (which was quite often, let us be honest).
Furthermore, I loved some of his very creative and accurate passes for opened forwards right in front of the net. Also, the poise that he frequently used to break into the offensive zone and create a chance was pretty stunning as well. Here is a display of him being an absolute stud at doing so.
To recap this, it was not an easy season for Norlinder. He missed nine contests earlier this year due to some troubles with his knees, which affected his performance a bit during this part of the campaign. Nonetheless, Norlinder certainly made progress in many ways. He entertained us with his flashy rushes, smart passes, and bold actions. He also has a contract with Frölunda for the next season, so there is a big chance that he will stay in Sweden for at least one more year.
Adam Edström, LW, Rögle BK (New York Rangers)
Edström is yet another player with an excellent start to the playoffs. His most recent performances are full of energy with a pinch of competitiveness and the cherry on the top, physicality. He has been playing on the fourth line, just like he did in the regular season. It may seem like not much, but this role suits him very well. He combines all of the qualities mentioned above to be an effective checking player with a hard-hitting game along the boards.
The 20-year-old forward marked two goals and four points after four playoff contests, which puts him in fourth place in the team’s scoring race. Just behind Daniel Zaar, Adam Tambellini, and Simon Ryfors, the three of the top five most prolific Rögle players from the regular season. I like Edström’s offensive drive and focus around the net. I am so curious to see whether he can keep this poise and become Rögle’s dark horse in these playoffs.
Moritz Seider, RHD, Rögle BK (Detroit Red Wings)
If we look at Seider’s performance from the regular season, it is hard to say that he has met the expectations in the playoffs. But let us be honest, he set the bar very, very high. The combination of his skill and high-end physical presence has been an enormous part of Rögle’s success. So yes, he has not been as dominating as he was in the regular season, but he still makes Rögle a better team.
The German giant has recorded one assist in four playoff outings so far. He has not been as dangerous in the offensive zone, although he still helps Rögle create opportunities. The team has been shooting over four shot attempts per 60 minutes more with Seider on the ice than without him. It does not come close to almost eight more shot attempts that Rögle was generating in his presence during the regular season, but it still proves his undeniable value to the team.
However, the four-game sample size is not enough to make any judgments. The nominee for the SHL’s Defenseman of the Year Award has blocked the most shots on the team (10) and fifth-most among all players. He has been good defensively, just amazing physically, and very well prepared mentally. I cannot wait for what he has to offer in the semifinals against Skellefteå. It is going to be a big Red Wings battle between him and Jonatan Berggren. I am so ready for it!
Albert Johansson, LHD, Färjestad BK (Detroit Red Wings)
Johansson is a player who had a bit of bad luck in the playoffs, although he certainly gave it everything he could. There is no doubt about that. It was especially tough for him since he had to fill the shoes of Jesse Virtanen, the best-scoring defenseman on the team, who is still experiencing post-Covid symptoms.
Throughout the six playoff contests, Johansson’s average ice time increased by almost six minutes from 17:29 in the regular season to 23:09. The heavier workload of playoff hockey was a big challenge for the 20-year-old. The smooth-skating defenseman blocked the second-most shots on the team (9) and played well defensively. However, as the games went on and opponents got tougher, his biggest weakness showed out more often than usual.
As we all know, Johansson is a great skater with tons of offensive qualities and a solid defensive game. But being physical was never his most recognized attribute, and you could see why in the last couple of outings. A great example would be the last meeting with Växjö. Johansson safely had the puck on his stick behind the net. Then he was outwrestled by an aggressively forechecking player who got the puck, and the Lakers suddenly scored an important goal.
Johansson made a lot of progress throughout the campaign. It was so much fun watching him grow into one of the key players on the team. He is most likely going to play overseas in the next season, which could be a good step for his physical development.
Adam Ginning, LHD, Färjestad BK (Philadelphia Flyers)
Another defenseman who received a lot more trust from coaches in the playoffs is Adam Ginning. Just like Johansson, he also benefited from the absence of Jesse Virtanen. In the last month of the regular season, Ginning spent around 16 minutes on the ice per contest. This number significantly increased in the playoffs to 22:02. Mainly on the penalty kill, where he averaged almost a minute and a half per game, the most among all Färjestad defensemen.
Ginning displayed a solid defensive performance with some tough, physical attributions that he mainly used to clear the space around the net. He had the typical shutdown role, so he spent a lot of time in the defensive zone. It did not exactly help his possession stats, which are below average. However, I think he made a big step in the right direction. He has a contract with Färjestad for the next year, so I am excited to see more from him down the road.
Alexander Holtz, RW, Djurgården IF (New Jersey Devils)
It has not been an easy campaign for the 19-year-old sniper who scored only seven goals in 40 regular-season outings. Holtz has had a fair share of ups and downs throughout the year, but it came in handy in the playoffs. He translated the slight disappointment to games that mattered the most, and he did it quite well, despite Djurgården not advancing to the quarterfinals. He showed a big hunger for goals and looked very motivated to prove himself out there. In three playoff contests, the sixth-round pick from 2020 tallied two goals and four points and became Djurgården’s top-scoring player (tied with Sebastian Strandberg).
Holtz also showed pretty nice chemistry with another big stud on the roster, William Eklund. They played together on the third line with centerman Kalle Östman. Holtz, however, spent around five minutes less on the ice on average than both of them. Part of the reason is that he did not get as many opportunities on the power play, although he still averaged around two minutes per night.
Even when we look at some advanced stats, there is no denial that Holtz had a very positive influence on the team’s overall game. He and Kalle Östman were the only players that managed to surpass the 50-percent mark in Corsi percentage. Holtz was credited 52.50 CF% and showed that he was one of the most impactful forwards on the squad. Djurgården had 12 and a half more shot attempts per 60 minutes more with him on the ice than without him. These great offensive numbers also beautifully translate to his defensive impact, as Djurgården allowed only 45.60 shot attempts per 60 minutes with him out there. It puts him in second place on the team.
Holtz’s season in the SHL was a bit inconsistent but ended on a good note from an individual standpoint. He gained momentum that he will, hopefully, be able to bring to Binghamton for the remainder of the campaign.
Karl Henriksson, C/RW, Frölunda HC (New York Rangers)
Henriksson has had a rough season. It took him 42 games to score his first goal in the SHL, which I am sure is way more than he anticipated. It is also not like he was not getting the opportunities to prove his talents. The 20-year-old Rangers prospect appeared in 44 regular-season contests with an average ice time of 12:34. Coaches were moving him all around the lineup to find him a spot where he could finally shine. However, it did not work out as everyone planned. The reason could be that he mostly played on the wing. He did not get many opportunities in the middle of the ice, so maybe that could be the stumbling stone. But that is just speculation at this point.
Henriksson had a solid first half of the season. He had a very positive influence on Frölunda’s performance at both ends of the ice, which is not surprising due to his good play-driving skills. From the start of the campaign to December 31st, Frölunda allowed opponents to fire just 42.58 shot attempts per 60 minutes with Henriksson on the ice, which puts him in fifth place on the team. In comparison, Frölunda also took over 61 shot attempts per 60 minutes on the other side of the rink, which is also the fifth-best number on the team. With Henriksson in the middle of the action, Frölunda fired over four shot attempts per 60 minutes more than without him. It only proves that he created chances regardless of his linemates.
Points were not there, but it did not matter that much because he played good hockey. Bad luck was just all over him. However, these stats got worse in 2021. Frölunda fired almost four shot attempts per 60 minutes less with him out there than without him since the beginning of the year. It also did not improve in the playoffs. He played on the fourth line, so the number dropped to over eleven shot attempts per 60.
Just by the eye test, you could tell that he was not in the best shape. He often made some unwise plays, especially in the neutral zone, where he lost some pucks and gave a few chances to the opposition. As a result, coaches benched him for three contests in the quarterfinals. It has not been the best season for Henriksson, but he still has a contract with Frölunda for the 2021-22 campaign. I think that he will stay in Sweden, although there is now a possibility that he could join the Rangers organization overseas. We will see which option he chooses.
Thank you for reading this article! If you liked it, please follow me on Twitter @TZahorak for more updates throughout the season.