Habs to Watch in 2017-18: Artturi Lehkonen


While Artturi Lehkonen wouldn’t make the illustrious list of Montreal Canadiens top rookie performers, there is something about his game that has people excited. While he has a history of assists, last year it was his 18 goals during the regular season that stood out. Lehkonen is good skater, a great stickhandler, and has excellent hockey sense. For proof, check this out:

Habs to Watch in 2017-18: Artturi Lehkonen

What stands out when you watch these goals is that he doesn’t appear afraid to go to the front of the net or do battle in the corner. He remains competitive despite his diminutive size. Perhaps more importantly, in the Claude Julien era, he is recognized as defensively responsible.

Last year, Lehkonen displayed unusual hockey sense for a rookie. This may be due to his decision to delay coming to the NHL. Drafted 55th overall (2nd round) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Habs, between 2013 and 2015 he benefited from the coaching he received from NHL veteran Sami Kapanen in Finland and Frolunda coach Roger Rönnberg in Sweden. Lehkonen was poised in his three appearances at the World Junior Hockey Championship. He led Finland to a gold medal in 2015.

There is growing interest in the Swedish Hockey League and its approach to hockey development. Frölunda Hockey Club prides itself on preparing future NHLers. Habs draft pick Joni Ikonen is developing there and Max Friberg, who captained the Ice Caps last season, is heading to Sweden to play for them alongside 2018 top prospect Rasmus Dahlin. Judging by the success of the past players coming out of Frölunda, perhaps AHL teams ought to take a closer look.

While Lehkonen did not necessarily have a break out season in 2016-2017, he played only 13 minutes per game. The good news is that he averaged more than two shots on goal per game. He seemed to get better as the year progressed. For example, Lehkonen had six goals and four assists in the last 10 games of the season. He went on to score two goals and had two assists in the playoffs. Check out this beauty:

So where does Lehkonen fit in this years line up? Its too soon to say, of course. While he played last year on the left wing, he has played on the right side in the past. A lot depends on where Jonathan Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk end up. Given his smart approach to the forecheck and defensive responsibility, he might be a great line mate for either of them, as they hopefully emerge as a reliable center. While some assume Lehkonen will be playing on the third line, don’t be surprised if we see him on the second line and grabbing some powerplay minutes.

Wherever he plays, Lehkonen is likely to take yet another step in his young career. He can play both wings, has a terrific shot, and appears to possess elite hockey sense. More important than those things is his persistence and consistent effort. Amidst the pessimism in Montreal this year, Lehkonen is on his way to be a top-six player in the NHL. Get excited.

Artturi Lehkonen 2017/18 Projections

21 Goals

25 Assists

46 Points

Main Photo:

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