Artturi Lehkonen was very unlucky this season, but despite that, there were plenty of positives to his year. Such a refrain has become entirely too familiar this off-season, as we have gone through the player reviews, but it is no less true.
Despite only putting up 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points in 66 games, Lehkonen’s development has in no way regressed. Always reliable on both sides of the puck, the Finnish forward elevated his game everywhere but on the scoreboard.
Quietly reaching elite levels in a number of areas such as high-danger scoring chances, Lehkonen has not only stepped up his own game, but has elevated the numbers of his teammates at even strength.
His penalty kill numbers weren't quite as exalted, but considering the Habs’ terrible penalty kill, this is not altogether surprising. He is, however, excellent at getting in the way of high-danger chances, and forcing his opponents to make the less dangerous moves.
We might have seen more impressive numbers out of Lehkonen if he and Charles Hudon hadn't been split up so quickly, despite the developing chemistry. They began the season on a line with Tomas Plekanec, and seemed to revive their centreman. While Hudon is certainly an excellent player in his own right, much of the line's success came from Lehkonen's driving force. Unfortunately, terrible luck, a bad save percentage when the line was on the ice, and a desperate need for goals split up the trio, but it was a glimpse of the kind of exciting play the young wingers can bring next season.
All of these factors mean that —despite the lack of offensive output— Lehkonen is the best player to emerge from the second round of the 2013 entry draft, and trails only Jake Guentzel, Anthony Duclair, and Mattias Janmark in scoring.
If Lehkonen's goal scoring returns to the heights he reached in his freshman season, then he will truly be a formidable and incredibly valuable player. Even if it doesn't, however, he will likely continue to be the crown jewel of the second round—or at very least the Habs’ best pick.
And if the Canadiens land a player in the second round of the 2018 draft who even approaches his skill level, they will be very lucky indeed.
Grade Lehkonen's 2017-18 Season
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