There was a lot of hype surrounding Habs prospect Artturi Lehkonen heading into his first NHL training camp. Much to the delight of Montreal Canadiens management, Lehkonen has lived up to the hype so far. His play in the preseason earned him a spot on the team’s opening night roster.
Artturi Lehkonen Will Make An Impact With The Canadiens
Had Lehkonen not made the Habs roster, he would have returned to the Frolunda Indians of the SHL. The same team he lead to a SHL Championship, in which he scored 11 goals and 19 points in 16 games. The 19 points was a Frolunda playoff record which was previously held by Daniel Alfredsson who had 18 in 2005. Earlier in the year, he also lead the Indians to a victory in the Champions League tournament which features the best teams from around Europe.
Lehkonen was so good in Frolunda that his coach Roger Ronnberg said just prior to his departure for Montreal’s training camp, “We wont see Lehkonen again, at least not from what I can see, he’s way too good.”
It didn’t stop there in terms of appraisal for him, he also got praise from former Habs captain Saku Koivu before camp started.“I am very confident that Artturi Lehkonen will take a spot in Montreal’s line up,” said Koivu.
Special Teams Work
Lehkonen plays a good two-way game that could fit well in coach Michel Therrien‘s defense-first system. He has proven he can kill penalties in the preseason as well. However, with the way Therrien is used to handling his young players breaking into the NHL, he most likely won’t give Lehkonen much penalty kill time. Nonetheless, his amazing hockey IQ helps him in terms of the three zones on the ice. He could find himself playing a regular shift on the penalty kill later in the season.
The same thing goes along for the power-play. Although Lehkonen will likely be starting the season in a top six role, he isn’t expected to start the season on either of the two power-play units. Instead the player to start on the second unit could be Andrew Shaw. However, he could earn power play time before penalty kill; due to the lack of scoring among the Habs players over the past few seasons.
A Top Six Role
His shot is the best part of his game, he has a lethal shot that can surprise goaltenders, much like it did to Frederik Andersen last Thursday in a preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s why playing him with a play-making winger in Alex Radulov will benefit Lehkonen greatly in terms of goal scoring. Radulov complements Lehkonen’s potential to become an NHL sniper very well.
The pair of wingers have found great chemistry together on the second line alongside Tomas Plekanec at centre. Radulov’s vision and Lehkonen’s shot means that the pair will likely create damage together. While it’s only been two preseason games that they have played together, it just seems like they are meant to create damage alongside each-other. Don’t think Lehkonen can’t dish the puck either, as he has great vision and solid hockey sense.
How Lehkonen will help the Canadiens
With what Lehkonen can bring to the table, there is no reason that he can’t make an impact early in his career. He has already played against men, and has had a lot of success. He is ready for the next step, it’s quite possible that Therrien will take baby steps with the 21-year old. However, he has the hockey IQ to push the coaching staff for more ice time.
He, much like Brendan Gallagher, has a knack for going to the net despite being slightly undersized. He proved just that in his five preseason games. Despite not scoring off his chances in close, Lehkonen’s luck is bound to change in front of the net. Lehkonen can rely on his hard shot more than Gallagher to get him his goals as well.
Lehkonen is also a huge bargain for a top six forward considering he has an $839,167 cap hit for the next three seasons. If Lehkonen can continue on his preseason success, the Canadiens will be a much better team because of it. If he scores around 15-20 goals and 35-40 points, which is definitely possible, then there’s no reason for him not to be in the conversation for the Calder Trophy as a dark-horse.