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European Prospect Review: Artturi Lehkonen the leading scorer in SHL quarter-finals

Several players are still involved in the playoffs of the various European leagues, but it was a Finn playing in Sweden who stole the show.

Frolunda HC

Lehkonen has another gear when it comes time for the playoffs. Taking out the eighth-final games (which leaves some players with two or three more games played), he leads the SHL playoffs in scoring with seven points (four goals, three assists). This week belonged to Lehkonen, and no one else came close.

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Joonas Nättinen, JYP

JYP has started the Liiga playoffs strong in the best-of-seven series against SaiPa. The Finnish captain has no points so far, but JYP has defied all pre-season predictions. Many prognosticators placed the team in the wild-card round, with some not even favouring them to win that. Now they are leading the series with 2-1 and are looking to reach the semi-finals.

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Lukas Vejdemo, Djurgården

Last night Vejdemo had his best game of the playoffs, being one of the players that really stood up and tried to create something versus Frölunda, using his strong work along the boards and controlling the puck on his shifts. In his first playoff action as a professional, he has gotten better every game.

Vejdemo is developing well, and with Frölunda's current assistant coach taking over head-coaching duties in Djurgården next year, it will be interesting to see how he improves with a new training philosophy and regimen.

Djurgården is down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, so the next game, on Easter Thursday, could be Vejdemo's last for the season.

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Magnus Nygren, Färjestad

Färjestad has been lured into a physical game when playing in Luleå, and has lost both games in the far north of Sweden. At home, the team was able to play more of the skill game that got them into the quarter-finals.

Nygren has managed a goal and an assist through three games, and leads his team from the top defensive pairing with Mikael Wikstrand. Nygren leads his team at a touch over 25 minutes per game.

He unleashed a rocket in the first quarter-final matchup against Luleå, but it was a little bit too late to complete the comeback, as Färjestad lost the game 4-2. His team will try to tie up the series at two games apiece later today.

Be sure to watch for an in-depth one-on-one interview with Nygren later this week.

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Martin Réway, Fribourg-Gottéron

Réway is spending the downtime between the NLA playoffs and World Championships in Bratislava practising with the Slovakian national team.

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Artturi Lehkonen, Frölunda

What is there to be said that I haven't said before? Lehkonen clearly wasn't joking when he said he was just saving some goals for the playoffs to explain his low production at the end of the regular season.

He has shifted into a gear that I have not seen before, and everyone who was skeptical about the young Finnish talent, it is time to learn how to pronounce his name. He will be on the Montreal Canadiens roster in the near future, and perhaps will do so without having to pay his dues with the team's AHL affiliate.

In what has been deemed a closely contested quarter-final series by many experts (and by me), of the 13 goals that Frölunda has scored, Lehkonen has been involved in seven. He has scored four of them himself, and this while receiving essentially no power-play time (about 1:20 per game). Out of the seven points, only one has come on the power play; he has matched that output with a goal scored while short-handed.

Lehkonen is known for a fast and accurate shot as well as his fantastic skating technique, but he has added a lot during his time with Frölunda, maybe most of all his tactical awareness. For last night's game he was moved up to the first line, and he stepped up with another goal and an assist in the game.

Lehkonen has really taken it upon himself to drive Frölunda forward. He is all over the ice, setting up big forechecks and good hits while still being defensively sound. He is officially third in scoring in the SHL post-season, but if you ignore the points from the three eighth-final games the two players in front of him played, he leads the quarter-final portion of playoffs in scoring.

In an interview with Göteborgs Tidningen's Henrik Leman today Lehkonen answers a few questions in regards to Montreal, it follows the same questions as the interview we published last week.

The Rookie Camp? - I don't know, we have to see in summer what happens. I have not heard from Montreal in a while.
He holds up Mattias Janmark as a good example, as going directly to the NHL from the SHL. He says he has grown up since arriving to Frölunda "I have gotten stronger and a bit more confident while being here, having a good regular season helped a lot as well. It suits me to play the same opponent everyday, that's probably why the playoffs are going so well. He finished with  "If I can play there [in the NHL] this fall, then why not?"

Earlier in the season, I opined that Lehkonen was a gem in need of polishing.  With his performance in the season, and his emergence as a top player in the playoffs, it appears that polishing is done.

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