Avalanche’s Lehkonen Starting to Fit In

It wasn’t the most high-profile transaction of the trade deadline, but the Colorado Avalanche’s move to acquire Artturi Lehkonen is starting to reap some benefits. Lehkonen’s uptick in production has produced two goals and three assists over Colorado’s last four games, and he’s adding even more depth scoring to one of the NHL’s highest-scoring teams.

With only a handful of games left before the postseason, Colorado’s still in the hunt to lock down a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy. The Avs are also gearing up to make a potentially deep playoff run, where they’ll attempt to bust through a recent roadblock. Colorado has been bounced from the postseason in the second round each of the last three seasons.

Lehkonen Brought in for Depth

Lehkonen came over to the Avalanche at the trade deadline, coming from the Montreal Canadiens for a 2024 second-round pick and defensive prospect Justin Barron. Coming to Colorado, Lehkonen scored 13 goals and 29 points in around 15 minutes per game. Of course, those numbers sound pedestrian when comparing them to Colorado’s scoring leaders, but keep in mind that the Avalanche have scored around 100 more goals than the Canadiens this season.

Artturi Lehkonen Colorado Avalanche
Artturi Lehkonen, Colorado Avalanche (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Understandably, it took Lehkonen a few games to settle in with his new team, but things are starting to come together for him. After scoring just one goal in his first six games with Colorado – an empty-netter against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 5 – Lehkonen found his groove. He has five points in his last four games, a feat he’s only been able to accomplish one other time in any four-game stretch this season in Montreal.

That type of production is why Avs general manager Joe Sakic brought in Lehkonen. He doesn’t need to score every night, but he is a creative threat to do so. The move for Lehkonen didn’t grab headlines like the Florida Panthers trade for Claude Giroux, but this was a great option for the Avalanche, and the Finnish forward is starting to prove it.

Lehkonen is Young But Experienced

Lehkonen is only 26 years old, but this is his sixth NHL season – and he played in the Stanley Cup Final last year with the Canadiens. He appeared in 27 playoff games over the last two seasons in Montreal and scored three goals during the 2020-21 postseason. This Avalanche roster has scored plenty of goals and won plenty of games together over the past few seasons, but it hasn’t translated into playoff success.

Artturi Lehkonen Montreal Canadiens
Artturi Lehkonen with the Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Barron was Colorado’s first-round pick (25th overall selection) in the 2020 NHL Draft, but played just two games for Colorado this season. He’s played five games for Montreal since the trade, scoring two points including his first NHL goal on April 5. Colorado has had some injury issues on the blue line this season, and Barron looked like he had a future in Colorado, but the Avalanche are looking to win now.

This Avalanche roster has scored plenty of goals and won plenty of games together over the past few seasons, but it hasn’t translated into playoff success. In fact, Lehkonen’s three playoff series wins last season were as many as the Avalanche have won in the last three seasons. Colorado looked like a contender last year, winning the Presidents’ Trophy and winning their first six games of the playoffs, but the Vegas Golden Knights won four straight to send the Avs packing in the second round for the third year in a row. Colorado scored 38 goals in the 2020-21 postseason, but 17 were scored by the top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. Twelve of the remaining 21 were scored by players that are playing for other teams this season.

Related: Canadiens & Avs Mutually Benefit From Lehkonen Trade

That meant more scoring needed to be added, and Lehkonen looks to be bringing it. He’s been most effective playing with J.T. Compher. Those two have played on the same line for roughly an hour of game time across six contests, and those lines have combined for seven goals. If Colorado can get that steady consistency from one of its middle six lines during the playoffs, along with the usual consistency from the high-flying top line, this could be the year the Avalanche finally breakthrough with a deep playoff surge.

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