Going into the season, the Montreal Canadiens have a lot of young players vying for a roster spot. From current NHLers like Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto and Phillip Danault to AHLers such as Michael McCarron, Charles Hudon and Jacob de la Rose, they are battling each other for that coveted spot in the NHL. Unfortunately, there isn’t room for everyone to be on the team and there are a few who could use some more seasoning in the minors. However, there is one player currently under the radar who could come in and nab a spot and that is Artturi Lehkonen.
Making an Impression
A 2013 second round draft pick for Montreal, Lehkonen has been playing in the Finnish and Swedish pro leagues for years and it shows. Playing against grown men has taught him to play against opponents that are bigger and stronger.
It took him some time to adjust to the Swedish League as he had just 16 points in 47 games in 2014-15. This past season, Lehkonen did much better posting 33 points in 49 games before exploding in the playoffs for 19 points in 16 games as Frolunda HC captured the Swedish League championship. He also put up 12 points in 13 games in the Champions Hockey League.
— Stu Cowan (@StuCowan1) September 23, 2016
Strengths and Weaknesses
When it comes to his game, Lehkonen has several strengths. He can play either wing and possesses an excellent shot. He is a fast skater with a strong hockey IQ and isn’t afraid to battle it out in the corners or along the boards with players who are bigger than him. His defensive game has improved since draft day and he is a relatively well-rounded player.
Lehkonen’s biggest weakness has always been strength. His draft profile from 2013 listed him at 5’10” and 152 lbs. He now hovers around 5’11” and is a much sturdier 176 lbs. As much as smaller players dominate the game, they still need to have some modicum of strength to compete.
In terms of competition among prospects to make the team, the NHLers listed above (Carr, Andrighetto and Danault) are the favourites, while Hudon and McCarron are in the mix too. Hudon especially, has developed well in the AHL but has received little opportunity at the NHL level. McCarron turned in a good rookie season and was called up last year for a stretch. However, in his case, McCarron could use a little more time in the AHL, mostly to round out his game and get a little quicker on his skates.
Playing overseas, Lehkonen has flown under the radar among Habs prospects, especially since most of Montreal’s prospects play in North America. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lehkonen grab a spot to start the season in Montreal.
As much as Andrew Shaw is likely to start the season on the second line left wing, he is better off on the third line as someone like Lehkonen has the skill set to thrive on the top two lines with better players. However, if he doesn’t make the team, Lehkonen has the choice of going back to Europe where he can continue to develop with a very good team in Frolunda.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Ryerson University. I am a freelance journalist and a Montreal Canadiens writer for The Hockey Writers. I previously wrote for Simcoe.com and Last Word on Sports as well as interned at TSN.