I am meeting up with Artturi Lehkonen after the first session of today's summer training with the SHL's Frölunda HC. He is the last guy coming around the corner carrying an American football under his arm looking quite happy.
Zeb: It seems I always congratulate you for something when we meet, should we book an appointment after the Stanley Cup Final next year?
Artturi: Laughs, says it would be great and quickly agrees.
Congrats Artturi! A fantastic season really finished off well in regards to the newly signed NHL contract.
Yes, it's a huge thing for me, personally, and it feels really good to get that done. But it is also another challenge for me. I really have to work so hard if I want to get a spot with the Canadiens one day.
Does it bring new motivation for you in regards to summer training?
A bit, but truth be told, you don’t really need more motivation after you win a championship. All you want to do is to get back to that place again. It has been a good summer for the whole team and that of course includes myself.
Have you come down from the celebrations in Gothenburg?
It was something I will always remember. An unreal experience. Götaplatsen was super awesome. Everything was so ... huge, massive, incredible really. I was just living in a bubble at that time.
Do you go back and watch the videos and pictures?
Once in a while, yes. I still haven’t watched the last series against Skellefteå and I really want to do that.
What happened with the Worlds? There were quite a few of us that expected you to fly in and take a place on a stacked Finnish team, especially as you bleed the Finnish colours.
Everything happened in such a hurry. The Finals finished on a Sunday, and they wanted me to come over and play some practice games starting on the Tuesday, and truth be told it wasn’t sure I would even make the team.
I was thinking everything is happening so fast and I can't take things like this for granted. I wanted to stay here in Gothenburg for a couple of extra days to really get this experience. When those days had passed, Finland had a team like they had and there wasn’t really a spot for me in that lineup. If you go for a tournament like that you want to participate and not just go and be a fourth line forward or the odd man out.
Thanks for clearing that up, Artturi. Back to summer training: what is your load now? Are you building weight or focusing more on getting the stamina up?
It's a bit of everything. I really have to improve everywhere. Especially with regards to training camp and the start over in North America. I really should improve everything.
How important is Rönnberg and the coaching team around him? You have taken huge steps the last two seasons.
Roger isn’t that responsible for the summer training, of course. Perra, our physio, is driving us now. He is the one responsible for everything at the moment. Roger and Robert Olsson (Lukas Vejdemo's new coach in Djurgården) ... they have really helped me develop my game on the ice.
It will be really interesting to see how Robert Olsson goes in Djurgården, it will be good.
What are your expectations in regards to Montreal?
What expectations can I have? I have to go there and really battle for a place, and I will do everything I can to stay in Montreal.
(The interview derails here a bit as we start listing possible linemates starting with Stamkos and a few other super stars.)
And with Frölunda?
I want to experience this again, but focus is to get to stay in Montreal.
You have an early start here in Europe with Champions Hockey League kicking things off. It's a bit different this season with two good teams (no disrespect to Sheffield Steelers). You have Wolfsburg Grizzlys (Germany) and Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Republic) in your group. Will this help you be ready for training camp?
It will give me a bit more of a feeling for the ice and a bit of match tempo. They will be good teams. It should benefit me some.
Have you had any reactions from Montreal Canadiens players after you signed the contract? I know you and Jacob de la Rose are reasonably close.
Yeah, he is the only one that has congratulated me actually. I have heard nothing from anyone else.
It is not yet certain that Lehkonen will go over for the development camp, as it will be decided later. But he will do everything he possibly can to be ready for training camp, and to earn that spot with the Canadiens come September.