Canadiens Prospect Report: Engstrom, Dichow & Europe 

The Montreal Canadiens have prospects at different levels of development playing across several leagues around the globe. The focus of this prospect report will be those prospects playing in Europe. The Habs are also taking advantage of the extended period allowed to sign players to an entry-level contract (ELC) by drafting European players who don’t need to be signed in the two-year time frame that Canadian Hockey League players must be signed.

Frederik Dichow – Goaltender, Frolunda HC (SHL) 

After a near-dominant performance in Sweden’s second division last season, Frederik Dichow has had a difficult start with Frolunda in the SHL, the top Swedish league. He suffered an illness to start the season, then had to deal with a coaching staff placing his development second behind trying to get a struggling starting goaltender in Lars Johansson on track. Dichow has had a slow start, as he has a record of 3-2-0 in five starts with a 3.02 goals-against average (GAA) and a .888 save percentage (SV%). Despite this, he is still challenging Cayden Primeau on the Habs’ depth chart.

Cayden Primeau Gabriel Landeskog,
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Cayden Primeau (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)

However, Dichow has just finished competing in the 2022 Deutschland Cup with the Danish National Team. In the two games he started, he earned a 1-1 record with a 2.85 GAA and a .919 SV%. This shows that while he’s still adjusting to a more competitive league, if given time and motivation, he can raise his game. The Canadiens’ 2019 fifth-round pick has still not signed his entry-level contract (ELC), but as a European prospect, the Canadiens hold his NHL rights indefinitely and can take the time needed to help him develop. 

Emil Heineman – Left Wing, Leksands IF (SHL) 

Emil Heineman has not played a regular season game in any league so far this season. During the NHL preseason, he impressed with his offensive awareness and strong skating stride. He displayed a strong ability to battle for puck possession and the use of a strong shot with a quick release to surprise defenders and goaltenders, generating several scoring opportunities for himself and his linemates with his quick release and rebounds generated off his shots. Heineman continues to rehab his upper-body injury under the watchful eyes of both the Canadiens and his hometown club.  

Heineman is the only player listed here who has a signed ELC, and he is still officially listed on the Canadiens’ season-opening injured reserve, as players who are injured cannot be reassigned. This provides an interesting option for management. There’s a loophole in the transfer agreement that means he can be assigned to the American Hockey League (AHL) Laval Rocket without the input of his SHL club if he were to remain on the roster for 60 days.  

Alexander Gordin – Center/Right Wing, HK Rostov (VHL) 

While playing in the MHL, the Russian version of a junior hockey league, Alexander Gordin was essentially a point-per-game player who scored goals regularly with his elite shooting skills. This season, Gordin has graduated to the VHL, the Russian version of a minor league affiliate. Unfortunately, his offensive production has not translated to this new level, as he has only one goal and four points in 14 games played, and it seems his development might have plateaued.

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Without any clear improvement in his skating — he needs to make gains in his first step strength or improve his skating stride for better top speed and use of edge work for mobility — he will not be able to get to the areas of the ice at the right moments to take advantage of his amazing shot. 

Adam Engstrom – Defense, Rogle BK (SHL) 

Incredibly, Adam Engstrom is often overlooked as a Canadiens prospect. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound, 2022 third-round pick should be more visible based on his excellent mobility and two-way play. In his time with the under-20 team in the Rogle system, he had proven he was ready to graduate to the SHL, as he had nine points in six games. 

In 16 games in the SHL, he has had some difficulty adjusting to the increased pace, and that has affected his defensive play as well as his transitional offence, scoring only one goal and two points. With that said, he has shown signs of development and has slowly become a bottom-pair defenseman at that level. At 18 years old, he is likely to be in the running for a position on Sweden’s World Junior Championship (WJC) lineup for the 2023 tournament to be held in Halifax, NS and Moncton, NB. 

Petteri Nurmi – Defense, HPK (Liiga) 

Petteri Nurmi missed the start of the Liiga season with an injury. Since his return, he has been playing on HPK’s top pairing, has scored one goal and four assists in eight games, and has been one of the top players on his team. This isn’t a surprise for the Canadiens management staff that drafted him as an over-ager in the seventh round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. This developmental trajectory should provide the 20-year-old with an ELC and a roster spot in Laval.  

Oliver Kapanen – Center, KaLPa (Liiga) 

As a right-handed center, Oliver Kapanen holds extra value to the Habs, especially as an offensively capable player.  

With four goals and 10 points in 20 games played, he is one of the best under-20 players in Liiga this season and has been named to the Finnish under-20 squad for the three-nations tournament in Czechia, which is a sign that he is likely to play a significant role for Finland at the 2023 WJC. The Canadiens’ 2021 second-round pick has shown great promise, but he still has work to do in his development to improve his faceoff and shooting skill sets. 

Dmitri Kostenko – Defense, Kunlun Red Star (KHL) 

Dmitri Kostenko is a 20-year-old right-handed defender that the Canadiens selected in the third round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Before his draft and his draft-plus-one year, he was a key component of his VHL and MHL teams, where he played a solid two-way game, shutting down top lines while also providing some offense.

This season, Kostenko graduated to the KHL after signing a two-year KHL deal in April. Since then, he has scored two goals and three points in 25 games played. Unfortunately, he has been following the Russian version of development in which young players are given very little, if any, ice time. With Kunlun, Kostenko has been playing minimal minutes and roles. The only upside is that the Habs aren’t in a rush to get him to North America or to sign him to a contract, as the team holds his NHL rights indefinitely.  

Miguël Tourigny, Dukla Trencin (Tipos Extraliga, Slovakia) 

By the end of his time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Miguel Tourigny was over a point-per-game player as a defenseman, which is even more impressive. But his size — 5-foot-8, 177 pounds — played a significant role in why he wasn’t drafted until his second go-around by Montreal in the seventh round of the 2022 draft. Instead of returning to the QMJHL for his final year of eligibility, Tourigny chose to sign a contract with HK Dukla Trencin in the Slovak Extraliga. He made this decision with his overall development in mind. 

“I could have returned to junior. I could have gone back to win a championship, which would be a short-term goal. In the long-term, to play against men will have a bigger impact on my development. “ 

– Miguël Tourigny, translated from French (“Mes chemins n’ont pas toujours été sur l’asphalte» -Miguël Tourigny, Mathieu Boulay, Journal de Montreal, 20 October 2022) 

It may be too early to say his choice was the right one, but he has gotten a big role with his club, playing top-four minutes and power play time. So far, in his first eight games of the season, he has scored one goal and four points.

That does it for this week’s edition of the Canadiens Prospects Report. Stay tuned, as each week we will provide updates on some of the young prospects making their way up the Habs’ depth chart. 

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