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Molin-Machine?

Tuesday, October 13th
Molin-Machine?

If you’ve been around the game of hockey for long enough, you’ll recognize it as one of the game’s most common narratives regarding a young European player: How will he adjust to the smaller rink?

It’s a fair question, as we’ve seen many a successful player from the junior and pro ranks of Sweden and Russia struggle to adjust to the tighter, more crowded dynamics of hockey in North America. The European ice sheet, commonly known as an “Olympic” rink, can be roughly the same length as the rink at CenturyLink Arena, but considerably wider. For example, the ice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics was 210 feet long and 98 feet wide, as opposed to standard NHL-rink measurements of 200 feet long by 85 feet wide.

So it’s reasonable for fans to be curious how the Steelheads’ newest talent from across the pond, forward Emil Molin, would perform in his first preseason game in the ECHL. It didn’t take long for the young Swede to  put any concerns to rest.

Molin, who was assigned from AHL Texas early last week and first arrived with the team at practice on Tuesday, thrived in his first contest against the Utah Grizzlies, scoring the team’s first two goals on a dominant line with center Taylor Peters and winger Rob Linsmayer.

“I had just been sent down from Texas and I wanted to have a good start here,” said Molin. “It was an important game for me.”

Molin will need to adjust to the new dimensions, which will give him less room to make plays around the perimeter of the ice and narrower lanes to use when carrying the puck into the offensive zone. But regardless of how wide or narrow, long or short the rink may be, the nets are always in the exact same place- lined up right down the center of the ice where Molin flourished.

Molin scored the game’s first goal just over seven minutes into the first period when he snuck behind the Grizzlies defensemen and posted himself right at the top of the crease with his stick on the ice. It was a perfect target for Linsmayer, who drilled a pass from the half-boards right onto Molin’s tape for an easy tap-in.

Just over six minutes later and with the game tied, Molin again found the back of the net, this time on the power play. Stationed at the top of the right circle, Molin took a pass from defenseman Shawn Boutin, took a stride in towards the face-off dot and wired a wrister into the top right corner.

“You have to back off more (in Europe),” said Molin of the wider ice. “If the other team has the puck you need to back off and read where it’s going to go. Here it’s more that you skate wherever the puck is and go hard. You go to the net and shoot the puck.”

That formula worked well for the rookie who has played more games against grown men than most other youngsters on the Steelheads preseason roster. Molin, 22 years old and a 4th round pick of the Dallas Stars in 2011, has played 89 games over the last four seasons in the Swedish Elite League, the top tier of pro hockey in Sweden, as well as another 80 games in the second-tier league, HockeyAllsvenskan.

Not only is that valuable game experience, but it also has given Molin a clear understanding of where he must improve to be effective in the pro game. Molin spent the off-season working to improve his shot, and in addition to his customary summer training, Molin sought to both gain weight and improve his quickness.

Those are not easy goals to achieve simultaneously, but Molin is off on the right foot after showing impressive chemistry with Linsmayer and Peters, a line that has stayed together through much of training camp.

“They’re both good players. We just play the game and seem to find each other. I don’t know why it was so good, but it was nice to have a good start.”

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