Montreal Canadiens Prospect Mattias Norlinder Heats Up In SHL Playoffs

Nov 20, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Mattias Norlinder. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 20, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Mattias Norlinder. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

Montreal Canadiens former general manager Marc Bergevin may have made his best move as the team’s general manager when he traded away their captain.

Max Pacioretty was about to begin the final year of his steal of a contract and he appeared to want out. Bergevin was able to pull the trigger on a deal that sent him to the Vegas Golden Knights.

In return, the Canadiens received Tomas Tatar who was really a throw-in to make the money work, prospect Nick Suzuki and a second round draft pick. That pick was moved for third and fifth round picks at the 2019 NHL Draft.

It was a bit disappointing when the Habs didn’t get a first round pick in the Pacioretty trade. But Suzuki has turned out to be ever better than hoped, Tatar bounced back in a big way, and Mattias Norlinder was drafted with the third round pick that eventually landed in Montreal as a result of this trade.

Norlinder was passed over in the 2018 NHL Draft, but followed that up with a strong Junior season and a good first impression in Allsvenskan, which is Sweden’s second best pro league.

The Canadiens scooped him up in the third round and he has shown a lot of promise as a prospect since then.

This season has been quite a whirlwind for Norlinder. He was a at the Canadiens training camp but was injured. After about a month he returned from his injury and played six games with the Canadiens. Then, he was sent down to the Laval Rocket where he suited up for six contests as well.

He was then sent back to Sweden to play the rest of the season for Frölunda in SHL, Sweden’s top league. He played 37 games for them last season, scoring ten points, but the 22 year old struggled to improve those numbers this season. He played 21 regular season games for Frölunda this season but didn’t register a goal and had only two points.

However, he is playing far better in the postseason.

Norlinder is a terrific skater and is known for his ability to jumpstart an offensive rush and join in to create odd man opportunities. The SHL isn’t the highest scoring league around, as the most offensive teams score barely over three goals per game in the regular season.

But, Norlinder has been able to find another gear offensively in the postseason. Frölunda took on Vaxjo in the opening round, and though Norlinder’s squad would sweep the series in four games, three of those went to overtime.

The Canadiens prospect started the playoffs by playing 19:47, which was fifth most among blue liners on Frölunda. He would remain in that slot in Game 2 of the series but set up the game’s opening goal in another eventual OT win for his team.

Norlinder would play 20:56 in Game 3 of that series, adding another assist on the goal that tied the game at three and sent it to overtime. This was an increased workload as he had the third most ice time among his team’s defenders and he fired six shots on goal.

Frölunda won Game 4 of the opening round series handily as they opened a 4-1 lead at the midway mark of the contest. It seems Norlinder plays more when the team needs an offensive boost, and that trend continued throughout round two.

Frölunda has had a tougher time with Lulea in round two but they started the series winning 6-3 with Norlinder collecting a pair of assists in the game. Since then, Frölunda has lost three straight and are now on the verge of being eliminated in Game 5 this afternoon.

From a Habs fan point of view, the losses for Frölunda have resulted in the offensive minded Norlinder getting far more opportunity on the ice.

Game 2 of the series saw Frölunda lose 4-2 but Norlinder had a power play assist, fired two shots on goal and played just over 17 minutes.

Game 3 was another 4-2 loss for Norlidner’s squad, but once again Norlinder found the scoresheet with an assist on a goal that made it 3-2 in the third period. He played 17:22 on the third pairing, but added his fourth point in three games.

Norlinder was held off the scoresheet in Game 4 as Lulea won the game 2-0. But, with Frölunda trailing most of the game, the Canadiens prospect played more than any other defenceman with 20:18 of ice time and he fired five shots on goal.

The Canadiens third round pick from 2019 now has six points in eight playoff games. That’s after just two points in the regular season. After a season that saw him play games in three different pro leagues, it appears Norlinder is finally finding his groove for Frölunda.

Their season could end today as they face elimination in the SHL semi-finals. If they do, it will be interesting to see if Norlinder returns to North America for a potential AHL playoff run with the Laval Rocket.

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