Free washer | Engström is not Norlinder, but not Lidstrom either…

We won’t make the mistake of falling into the trap like with Mattias Norlinder a few years ago.

But the arrival of defender Adam Engström, whose signing the Canadian announced Friday morning, is interesting.

First, there is an important distinction to make between Norlinder and Engström. The first captured the imagination on social networks when a longtime Swedish journalist predicted the Norris Trophy and compared him to the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom, during a visit from a reporter from Florida who came to survey the roots of Victor Hedman.

Norlinder then played for MODO, a legendary club, but relegated to the second division (Allsvenskan) since 2016. This third round pick of the Canadian in 2019 had obtained 18 points in 34 games in his first professional season, at age 20.

This interesting start earned him a surprise participation in the World Junior Championship in 2020. He nevertheless played a limited role with the Swedish team, within a third pair, blanked in seven matches.

Promoted at the age of 20 to Frölunda HC in the first division (SHL) 2020-2021, the rest was less spectacular on the offensive level for this defender renowned precisely for his offensive breakthroughs: 12 points in 58 games spread over two seasons, between 20 and 22 years old. But he produced in the playoffs.

In two seasons in North America, Norlinder played most of his matches in Laval, with one or two brief recalls to Montreal. After an astonishing training camp in September, he had a modest season this winter, and even struggled to play with the Rocket at the end of the season after the arrival of David Reinbacher. We haven’t expected anything from him for a while.

Engström, also a third-round pick, but in 2022, the year of Juraj Slafkovsky and Lane Hutson, among others, went straight to the SHL with Rögle at 18 in 2022. There he had 38 points in 94 games over two years old, at a younger age than Norlinder.

This young man played in Sweden’s first pair of defensemen at the World Junior Championship, and in most situations. Engström was generally used for around twenty minutes per match, Norlinder rarely more than ten.

To everyone’s surprise, Engström’s club Rögle reached the SHL final in recent weeks, before losing in five close games to Skelleftea.

Engström was not the driving force on defense, at 20 years old, but he did not play a modest role either. He played 16 minutes on average during the final, in the third pairing with former Canadian defender Brandon Davidson, but the defenders’ usage time was rather well distributed between the first six backs.

The Canadian therefore welcomes a rather complete defender, clearly more than Norlinder in fact, whose defensive deficiencies were known, and above all more aggressive, capable of producing offensively – he was also used within the second wave in superiority digital – but Engström is not the exceptional young defender in Sweden either.

His teammate, Swiss Lian Bichsel, for example, a first-round pick of the Dallas Stars, 18e overall in 2022, was dominant in the playoffs, at 6 feet 6 inches and 233 pounds, at 19 years old.

His young rival in the final with Skelleftea, Axel Sandin-Pellika, a 5-foot-11, 176-pound right-handed offensive defenseman drafted in the first round, 18e in total, by Detroit, in 2022, won the title of MVP in Sweden, at just 19 years old.

Training camp will tell us more. Not all Europeans adapt to the North American style of play in the same way.

This young defender is expected to develop first in Laval, especially with the congestion on the left side on defense. We already find Mike Matheson, Lane Hutson, Kaiden Guhle (placed on the right this winter to help out), Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris and Jayden Struble.

“There is congestion on defense for the Canadian, everyone knows that, but I will try to earn a position in training camp,” Engström told colleague Patrik Bexell on Friday morning. It won’t be easy, but I’ll give it my all. I will go where the Canadian tells me, probably in the American League. But there are a lot of defenders in Laval too, we’ll see. »

A club can never have too many defenders. Management always wants strong internal competition. But given the large number of defenders on this flank, and the limited number of places, not only in Montreal, but also in Laval, don’t be surprised to see one or two leave this summer.

The better of the two goalkeepers did not win


Connor Hellebuyck

Predicting playoff results remains a perilous exercise. And we shouldn’t trust the reputation of the goalkeepers, it seems. Alexandar Georgiev of the Colorado Avalanche had a disastrous end to the season, allowing 32 goals in his last eight starts and winning only three games. If the young Justus Annunen had not been ill, Georgiev probably would not have started the series.

His first-round opponent, Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, was in different shape. This finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the goaltender par excellence in the regular season, has allowed three goals or less in his last seven starts, including two goals or less four times, and won his last five games.

Hellebuyck was awful in the playoffs. He allowed 24 goals in five games. Georgiev wasn’t stellar, but just not too bad to hurt Colorado. The Avalanche won in five games.

“You probably won’t believe me, but I was playing the best hockey of my career,” Hellebuyck told reporters during the Jets’ season review on Thursday. At least, I felt that way. I was in a zone. I wasn’t thinking on the ice, I was just playing. Giving up four or more goals per game in the playoffs against the Avalanche broke my heart. Really… I didn’t see about half of the pucks that beat me, you have to give them credit. But not being able to impose myself was hard to swallow. »


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