Now that Artturi Lehkonen is officially coming to North America contract in hand, we can really spend some time delving into what he'll be bringing to the Canadiens as a 21-year-old rookie. After the year he had for Frolunda in the SHL, there is quite a bit to be intrigued about before we even see him suit up for the tricolore.
Before I start, I realize that the headline for this article is pretty ambitious. We're talking about two blue chip prospects that are expected to step straight into the NHL next year, against a second-round pick from back in 2013.
Nonetheless, there is a real comparison to be made, since they all played in the same league during their draft years.
Patrik is a particularly strong resource we have for European prospects here at EOTP, and he presented me with some interesting stats during one of our conversations about the Finnish forward. Check out his numbers from his draft year compared to Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine in the Liiga.
|Artturi Lehkonen (2012-13)||KalPa||45||14||16||30||12|
|Patrik Laine (2015-16)||Tappara||46||17||16||33||6|
|Jesse Puljujarvi (2015-16)||Kärpät||50||13||15||28||22|
While playing in fewer games than both of the highly touted soon-to-be NHLers, Lehkonen put up a very similar stat line. He wasn't exactly a super late pick at 55th overall back in 2013, but when you consider the draft year he had, and what he's done since, it almost looks like robbery to have gotten him outside of the first.
Lehkonen's KalPa put up a 24-9-7 record in his draft year. Laine's Tappara squad went 26-12-8, while Puljujarvi's Kärpät went 33-6-8. All three teams made the playoffs in their respective years, but Puljujarvi's team stands out as being stronger than the other two.
Puljujarvi was thus on the best of the three teams based on their respective records, while Laine and Lehkonen put up more points on arguably weaker squads. If you only look at Lehkonen's Liiga production, his closest comparable in this year's draft may just be the consensus number two pick of Laine.
Now, I would be remiss not to stress that both Laine and Puljujarvi come with considerably higher pedigree. Lehkonen was not viewed as an NHL-ready player in his draft year like the other two. A lot of that seems to have to do with his size, but as we now know better than ever, players of smaller stature have absolutely no problem producing in today's NHL.
For the purpose of comparing these three players, it may even be fair to say that the older Lehkonen will come to the NHL more polished. Most would call his eventual move from the Liiga to the Swedish Hockey League a step up in competition, and he continued to produce while working on every facet of his game.
He may not have the size or pedigree of his countrymen, but there is no doubt that he brings some of the same ability. And he hasn't been sitting around expecting those skills to develop themselves either.
Patrik was actually able to learn that he's been working with a professional skating coach for some time. His coaches identified his skating as one area that he could improve the most, he really bought into that, and has been working feverishly on it. He even stayed late after practice a lot during the year, and it clearly paid off.
That Frolunda playoff scoring record set by Daniel Alfredsson, which Lehkonen broke this year, is even more impressive when you consider who set it. Alfredsson was a 33-year-old NHL veteran when that lockout year allowed him to go dominate the SHL, whereas Lehkonen did it at the age of 20.
None of this is intended to disparage Laine or Puljujarvi, nor to suggest that he's going to be a better player. Only time will tell that, but there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Artturi Lehkonen.