With some leagues on breaks, and because of World Junior Championship (in Finland), there is another mismatch of games to be had this week. Liiga and SHL are ongoing as normal, and Boxing Day ice hockey turned out to be a good deal for the clubs, with sellout crowds and the subsequent increase in revenue from concessions and merchandise. Switzerland's NLA does have a hiatus because of the Spengler Cup, and the WJC is something we all keep an eye on.
Joonas Nattinen, JYP
Joonas Nättinen scored the opening goal in the game vs Lukko on Boxing Day. In his second game vs Kalpa, Captain Nättinen once more led his troops forward and they managed to squeeze out a shootout win after having blown a 2-0 on the road.
Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården
Vejdemo took his cut from the Swedish WJC squad in stride, while acknowledging he was disappointed. "All I can do is to look forward. I am happy I made the squad and the competition was fierce. I did all I could and it wasn't enough, of course it's disappointing to miss out on WJC," he said in an interview with Aftonbladet: the biggest daily paper in Sweden. He want straight from camp to play against Skellefteå; one of the tougher assignments you can have in the SHL. "It's good to play hockey directly (afterward), it probably makes the disappointment go away."
Unfortunately for Vejdemo, playing games against Skellefteå — the powerhouse of Swedish hockey right now — and a Färjestad team the experts predicted to win the championship prior to the start of the season, Vejdemo went a minus two with one shot, although that's not such a bad stat line considering all that has been going on around him these last weeks.
Magnus Nygren, Färjestad BK
Still out with the injury.
Artturi Lehkonen, Frölunda HC
Artturi Lehkonen completely dominated this week's SHL action along with linemates Robin Figren and Patrik Carlsson, with the trio racking up 11 total points in two games. Lehkonen had four of those points with one goal and three assists, and the line seems to have gelled considerably in the last month. Artturi's goal came after a great pass from Figren to send him in alone with the goalkeeper, and Lehkonen was deadly.
While Lehkonen also had a few assists versus Karlskrona (two) and Skellefteå (one), the following play was the chance that really stood out to me; look at that speed to attack the front of the net in an effort to get that goal. This against that powerhouse Skellefteå team. The rivalry that these two clubs are building up is nothing short of fascinating.
On Tuesday came news (that some Canadiens fans might have dreaded) that Lehkonen had signed on for one more year with Frölunda in the SHL.
Lehkonen commented via Frölunda's Website saying: "I never hesitated to sign; there was no other option. I like the club, the city, and I know this is where I will develop best." With 24 points in 29 games, it was in Frölunda's interest to get Lehkonen's status sorted as soon as possible.
It will give both the team and Lehkonen the chance to play to their strengths this season, and build on the off-season training that clearly benefited him last summer, without the distraction of questions about the future extending longer into the season. The contract has an NHL out clause, but most likely this would mean that if Lehkonen doesn't make the team from camp he would head to the SHL instead of the AHL, similar to how Janmark's contract was written with Dallas.
I personally thought Lehkonen would be the one to go to the AHL, and Réway to stay in Europe, but I also think this is the right path for Lehkonen. He has always done things in order to prepare himself for the NHL, and seeing the success of Mattias Janmark in Dallas, and how much it has helped Andreas Johnson to stay with Frölunda this season, must have had an impact.
We at Eyes on the Prize covered this situation to a degree in this article earlier this fall. After meeting Lehkonen, there is no doubt in my mind that a place in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens is his ultimate goal. This decision is what he feels is the best preparation to achieve that dream.
Lehkonen is now 12th in scoring in the SHL. Impressive to say the least.
Martin Reway, Fribourg-Gottéron
No games played in NLA because of Christmas break, and Fribourg-Gottéron does not participate in the Spengler Cup.