As I was welcomed in to the Frölunda HC offices for an interview with Artturi Lehkonen, they gave us a room where there was a signed Ottawa Senators jersey hanging on the wall. A few good jokes were shared between us before we sat down and had a nice conversation, with a few laughs tossed in for good measure.
Artturi had just come from a gym session, so to start things off I asked how preseason training was going.
It’s going well. I had a pretty tough summer last year, I was sick for quite a long time. It’s nice to be healthy for one summer, and I think this summer has been good for me.
You went over to the development camp as well, how was that experience?
I have been there three times, but this was the first time I was on the ice. I was sick and injured during the last development camps. So this was the first year I was able to participate in all the practices.
Did you enjoy development camp? Did any players stand out for you?
Oh Yeah! It was a really good experience. It was nice to see a couple of guys there. Charles Hudon is a really good player. He is fun to watch when he's playing.
Do you think that the development camp and the full summer will benefit you this year?
Yes of course, its going to be a whole different start for me this season compared to last year, because last season I had to get back into shape, whereas I'm in good shape now, and its going to help me to take the next step.
"Montreal is such a nice city," he said, having had the chance to visit a few times, during his trips to Montreal and with the Finnish Juniors. The one thing that stands out is playing Canada in the Bell Centre (a 4-1 Canada win). He just wishes he had scored a few more goals.
We then discussed his transition from Finland to Sweden, which was clearly a big step. Artturi has studied Swedish in school; though it wasn't one of his preferred subjects. Thankfully due to some language courses from day one in Frölunda, he understands a lot of Swedish and can follow a discussion, but deems himself shy when it comes to speaking. In Scandinavian countries it’s also so easy to fall back on English as everyone speaks it.
Could you tell us the difference on the ice between Finland and Sweden?
During play the game was different; in Finland it’s all about playing defensively whereas here in Frölunda they play a pressure game.
Of course it was a big difference, because in Finland we play a secure game all the time and here in Sweden we are trying to pressure all the time. It is a somewhat difficult to get used to. The first thing they say when we come here is you have to skate all of the time. In Finland you are kind of just looking, trying to make the right plays and you had maybe a little more time. But I think this was a good move for me when I want to go to North America at some point. I think this is the right stepping stone.
With the experience you have acquired here, is it a good step to have taken?
Yes it is. It will help me for a long time, and I like Swedish and all languages, and I trying to learn them, but of course its hard for me catch up with the native speakers. It's not that easy.
How is your French?
Not that good, but I can speak a little bit; oui, bienvenue and merci
You have another Montreal prospect in SHL this year, Lukas Vejdemo, how did you two get along over there? Did you tease each other?
Ah, we got along pretty good. Of course, he is a bit younger than me, so I tease him a little bit more
When you Meet Djurgarden later this year you will be in his face, take a big shot at him? Do you have a move lined up?
Yeah I am going to tease him a little bit on the ice. We played in the same team in development camp so… I don’t know any moves to use against him.
In your own words, what are your strengths and weaknesses on the ice?
My weakness is that I am not a big player, I need to bulk up, and get a bit more explosive and strength in my body.
My strength is my offensive game, I like to shoot a lot, I like to be in the critical moments of a game, and I like those kinds of situations. I shoot all the time, I want to make it my really big strength, but of course you need to train your weaknesses as well so you are not a one dimensional player.
What do you think you've improved upon the most since last year?
I think I gained a bit more speed, I think I was a little bit faster than before.
Did playing with Janmark and Frigren help you take a more defensive responsibility?
Yeah the defensive game (laughs) ! These guys! They are going at it hard, and I was the guy that had to make sure the opponent didn’t get any odd man rushes. I had to improve all over the ice.
What are your expectations for this year? You finished second in Champions League last year, which is something that hasn't gained much popularity in Europe yet. You reached the semi-finals in SHL, and lost against a very good team Vaxjo Lakers that then went on to win the title.
It's hard to talk about teams expectations, because we haven’t talked about it that much yet. But I am expecting that our team will go further than last year, and I think all the new guys all the players coming in, they know what we are going to try and achieve, and what Gothenburg expects.
And what about on a personal level? Are you trying to break in to the National team via the Channel One Cup?
Yeah, I want to get in there I want to be able to fight for a spot in the World Championship. This season in Frölunda I want to have a much better season than last year. I want to be more of a part of the offensive game and make myself useful for the team.
Is your best hockey memory the World Junior Championship gold medal overtime win vs Sweden in 2014?
OH YES! That was the biggest memory I have from hockey, it was such an amazing group of guys, that it was really nice to achieve something with them. And obviously beating Sweden is always special, we still have a couple of players here so I can rub it in. It's great! Beating Sweden in the final is something every Finnish player dreams of growing up.
Do you have any contact with active Montreal players right now?
Not really. I speak to Jacob de la Rose every time I see him, but we are not keeping in touch that much during the season. If he were to play here it would be completely different. We would see and play against each other more often.
Rapid fire questions
Favourite Team growing up?
"Philadelphia Flyers because of Kimmo Timmonen"
Favourite player growing up?
"Jeff Carter. Favorite Finnish player would be Selänne, no doubt."
Favorite Montreal Canadiens player right now?
"Brendan Gallagher and P.K. Subban. Price also had a decent year."
How did the nickname "the Pea" come about?
"First the started calling me "lilla Finnen" (little Finn), then somehow that changed to the pea."
No I didn’t!
Is there something you want to say directly to Habs fans?
I am looking forward to playing there, I cannot really explain how much. That’s one of the things I always think about, playing there.
I’d like to express my gratitude towards Frölunda HC and Artturi for the opportunity, and the warm welcome. Their hospitality was exemplary, and I left the interview proud of my hometown club.