Avalanche’s Lehkonen Has Been a Steadying Force

Thanks to a glut of early-season injuries, there has been a lot of inconsistency surrounding the Colorado Avalanche’s lineup this season. One thing the defending Stanley Cup champs haven’t had to worry about is the production of forward Artturi Lehkonen. Playing in his first full season with the team, he has provided some scoring consistency with nine goals and 14 assists. The solid play has helped keep the Avalanche afloat while dealing with their multitude of injuries.

Lehkonen Made an Immediate Splash

Lehkonen came to the Avalanche in a trade deadline deal with the Montreal Canadiens that sent a draft pick and defenseman Justin Barron to the Habs. The trade paid almost instant dividends, as he delivered six goals and three assists over the final 16 regular-season games. He was a key component in Colorado’s run to the Stanley Cup, as well, racking up eight goals and 14 points while playing in all 20 playoff games.

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

The Avalanche rewarded him with a contract extension, signing the 27-year-old winger to a five-year deal worth a total of $22.5 million. Lehkonen’s production has continued into this season, as his nine goals and 14 assists put him fourth on the team in points – behind Avalanche mainstays Mikko Rantanen (42 points), Nathan MacKinnon (34) and Cale Makar (29). He also made a splash in his first game against his former team, scoring a third-period goal to help Colorado to a 2-1 overtime win against Montreal on Dec. 21.

Related: Avalanche’s Lehkonen Starting to Fit In

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Lehkonen’s consistency has been vital to Colorado’s success. He has two goals and three assists in the Avs’ recent run of six wins in seven games. He’s also been doing it in all phases of the game. His five power-play goals lead the team, and he also is tied with three others for the team lead with one short-handed tally. He has also chipped in eight power-play assists.

Lehkonen Moving Toward Career Year

This season’s production also puts Lehkonen on pace to obliterate all of his previous career highs, and he should be able to maintain these numbers as the Avalanche get healthier. His previous best campaign came last season when he scored 19 goals and hit 38 points. He was also one assist away from his career best in that statistic, as he notched 20 helpers in 2018-19. He needs just six assists to hit that mark this season, and if he can remain healthy, should be able to collect his first 20-goal season.

Artturi Lehkonen Montreal Canadiens
Artturi Lehkonen played four-plus seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Despite all of the lineup shakeups, Lehkonen has been able to stay with the same linemates pretty consistently. He has played the most with MacKinnon and Rantanen, as that trio has combined for nine goals in their 22 games played together. He has also played with three other line combinations, but the contributions haven’t slowed down. The winger has only one three-game stretch this season where he went without a point, and also had a stretch in November where he scored a point in nine straight contests.

Related: Avalanche’s Rantanen & Lehkonen Face Pressure in Return Home

There are a number of Avalanche players people think of when talking about the team’s high-scoring offense, but Lehkonen hasn’t necessarily been one of them. However, he’s proven to be one of the best signings made by the Avalanche front office in recent years, and he has set himself up for perhaps the best season of his career – despite his team fighting through adversity. The injuries had some concerned for the prospects of Colorado even making the postseason. However, if Lehkonen keeps up the consistent play, his name will start getting mentioned more consistently amongst the Avs offensive powerhouses, as well.

Colorado Powers Through Injury Woes

The Avalanche have been juggling lineups due to injuries pretty much since the season started. Before playing a game, captain Gabriel Landeskog was lost to knee surgery until January. Just seven games into the campaign, Valeri Nichushkin was sidelined with ankle surgery. Things looked especially bleak when MacKinnon also hit the shelf with an upper-body injury on Dec. 5, but Colorado has been able to plow forward.

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning Gabriel Landeskog Colorado Avalanche
Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save against the Colorado Avalanche as Gabriel Landeskog and Artturi Lehkonen look on in the Stanley Cup Finals. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The injury bug has bitten pretty much everybody on the roster, including Lehkonen. He missed three games in early December with an upper-body injury, but hasn’t missed a beat since returning. The Avalanche are 7-2 in December when Lehkonen plays, and one of those losses was the game where he got injured – logging just 5:05 of ice time in a 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Dec. 3. The Avs lost all three games he missed.

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Only five Avalanche have dressed in all 32 games this season, and 15 different players have spent time on the injured list. Despite all of that, they have won four in a row and are tied for the fifth-best record in the Western Conference. The recent win streak has jumped them up into the middle of the playoff hunt, and the Avs hit Christmas just six points behind the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars with three games in hand. It might be too much to ask for them to get back in the hunt for a Presidents’ Trophy, but getting continued production from players like Lehkonen as the roster continues to get healthy will go a long way in putting the Avalanche in prime position to defend their title.