Checking in on Artturi Lehkonen, and why he isn't scoring

Jamie Squire

Early in the year there was nothing that could stop Lehkonen, yet now he's on a worse pace at 18 than he was at 17, what's going on in Finland?

Drafted with Montreal's own second round pick (55th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Artturi Lehkonen was a highly lauded, highly skilled forward who fell from being ranked in the midrange of the first round due to concussion issues. He was the highest debut on our Habs Top 25 Under 25 list from that draft due to his excellent skillset.

Remember the NJEC tournament during the summer where Lehkonen was the leading goalscorer? Playing with Teuvo Teravainen, the duo shredded their opposition every game. Lehkonen scores 2 more goals than any other player in the tournament, finishing with 5 goals and 1 assist in 5 games.

Fast forward to this year in the SM-Liiga, and he has just 3 goals in 20 games for KalPa, after scoring 14 times in 45 games last season as a 17 year old. So what exactly is going on there? Do we have reason to worry about the the young Finn? After all, he's 5'11" but still listed at just 159 pounds. Maybe his lack of size is hurting him. Let's take a closer look.

EOTP regular Anthony Delage delved into it to figure it out during this Monday's edition of Robert Rice's Catching the Torch, and as it turns out, Lehkonen isn't playing poorly at all.

Lehkonen is playing on the worst team in the top Finnish league, as KalPa has only 5 wins in 20 games, only 4 of which are in regulation. On that poor team, he leads everyone in points with 11, with the next closest being 8.

More impressive than that though, is that he has 84 shots in those 20 games, while playing 16.31 minutes per game. That works out to 15.45 shots per 60 minutes of ice time, which is also the highest on his team.

That in and of itself is impressive, but looking at it in context is even more impressive. This is a small, underweight player, playing in a men's league, putting up the 5th highest shot rate in the league.

So what's going on? Well he's shooting at just 3.6%, whereas last year he shot at 7.3%. Shooting percentages are irregularly low in the SM-Liiga to begin with, but 3.6% is egregiously low for a player of Lehkonen's talent level. Even if he only regresses to last season's shooting percentage, and I think he should drift even higher than that, the scoring is going to pick up sooner than later.

Panic about this prospect is not warranted, he's playing extremely well in difficult circumstances. Once Lehkonen puts on a bit of muscle, he may actually be Montreal's best prospect at the forward position.

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