Prospects News & Rumors: Lehtonen, Team Canada & Perreault

Another player hopeful to make his National Hockey League debut next season will stay in Europe to start things off. Plus, Team Canada is laying down the foundation to built another gold medal team. Finally, we take a look at a second-generation player with an elite shot.

Lehtonen to Remain in KHL

It is hard to consider a 26-year-old player a prospect, but since he has yet to play in the NHL, we will throw him into this category. The Toronto Maple Leafs announced on Saturday morning that defenseman Mikko Lehtonen has been loaned to Jokerit of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)

Lehtonen signed a one-year, entry-level with the Maple Leafs in May and was planning on playing in the NHL next season. That still may happen, but this allows the blueliner to play with Jokerit while the start of the NHL is delayed. The KHL is hoping to start their season on Sept. 2, 2020.

Mikko Lehtonen
Lehtonen (right) is still planning on coming to Toronto.
(Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro) / CC BY-SA –

The 2019-20 season was a good one for Lehtonen. He won the KHL postseason award for being the highest-scoring defenseman by scoring 17 goals and 49 points. He told the team’s official website that knowing the players and coaches was a big plus in making this decision and this is the best possible way for him to prepare for the NHL season.

Team Canada Looks to Repeat

The hockey world has had to think outside of the box when it comes to trying to prepare for the upcoming season. Team Canada usually hosts and camp and showcase for the prospects hoping to make the World Junior Championship (WJC) in late July. This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hockey Canada’s National Junior Summer Development Camp had to be limited to just online seminars and training meetings.

Head coach Andre Tourigny wasn’t too worried about not getting in the on-ice workouts. He used the virtual camp to get to know the players on a personal level.

“We have identified important values that we think can be difference makers for our team. What we evaluate most in the summer is the character of the player and getting to know them as a person,” Tourigny told the Canadian Hockey League’s (CHL) official website. “It is about creating relationships and chemistry, offering clarity in terms of what is expected, and teaching the players about the challenge ahead of us.

Canadian players gold medals WJC 2020
Team Canada is seeking to repeat as gold medal winners at the WJC.
(Photo by Peter KovalevTASS via Getty Images)

“The evaluation in terms of play is not as important. We know that because they are the best players in Canada. We know they have talent. We have a lot of time for the player evaluation. During the summer, it’s like taking an Olympic athlete and asking him to perform at his top level in the first year of his cycle, where his peak is not there, and the same for us where the peak of a hockey player is not during the summer.”

Tourigny added that he is looking for a group of forwards that play a complete game. He wants guys who work even harder without the puck than they do when they have it. The 2021 WJC is scheduled to take place from Dec. 26, 2020-Jan. 5, 2021 in Edmonton and Red Deer Alberta. Canada is looking to win back-to-back gold medals for the first time since they won the tournament five times in a row between 2005 and 2009.

Prospect of the Day – Jacob Perreault

Today we take a look at Perreault, the son of long-time NHL center Yanic Perreault. Just like his father, Jacob plays center, as well as the wing, but he is much more of a dynamic offensive player than Yanic, who was better known for winning faceoffs and playing defense. Heading into the draft, he is ranked as the 17th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and 29th overall by THW’s Josh Bell.

Related – 2020 NHL Entry Draft: Top-10 OHL Prospects

Perrault had a very successful rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) scoring 30 goals and 55 points, in 63 games, for the Sarnia Sting in 2018-19. He followed that up this past season with 39 goals and 70 points in 57 games.

The youngster boasts one of the best shots of the 2020 draft class and can score from anywhere on the ice. In addition to his sniping ability, he is also a very good passer and is very creative with the puck. Perreault does need to improve on his strength and defensive zone play, like a lot of teenagers at this level.

His scoring ability should make him a first-round pick, be he might slide into the second. Our own Andrew Forbes feels that he can be a very good player if he improves on his weaknesses.

The potential to be a force in the NHL is there. For those who are old enough to remember his father’s NHL career know that at time he was underrated during his playing days. The same likely won’t be said about the younger Perreault, whose shot and ability to control the game will make him a legitimate top-six forward in the coming years. That said, he will need to continue to round out the rest of his game if he wants to make that jump sooner than later.

Another season in the OHL will do Perreault a lot of good. It will give him time to add some size and strength and work on his defense while playing against good competition. Whichever team drafts him will need some patience as they wait for the rest of his game to catch up with his NHL-level shot.