Lucky Lekkerimäki, just like Lucky Luke, draws faster than his own shadow and is just as accurate as the cartoon character. The right-winger has scored in each competition he entered this season, be it internationally in the IIHF Under-18s, in the SHL where he made experienced goalies look like rookies, or in Swedish U20 competition where he was just as dominant as you can expect from a top-10 talent for the 2022 NHL Draft. Jonathan Lekkerimäki has one of the best, if not the best, shots in the draft class; the only other player that I can see coming close is the Finnish phenom Joakim Kemmell.
Lekkerimäki stepped up when it really mattered. In the U18s, he recorded five goals in six games, including an empty-net goal in the final, where he also had three assists (including on the game-winning goal).
Birthplace: Huddinge, Sweden
Date of birth: July 24, 2004
Position: Right Wing
Weight: 172 lbs.
Team: Djurgårdens IF, SHL
There are questions, though. Is Lekkerimäki a one-trick pony? Having been out of the spotlight due to Djurgården having a terrible season, and being caught in the limbo of being a bit too good for the U20s and not really good enough for the SHL, it is tough to make a fair assessment of the problem.
He handles the puck well, keeping it in close in order to make it difficult for the opponents to steal it from him. This also gives him the chance to dangle the opponents that are more often caught off balance as they try to reach for the puck, or off speed if they wait too long. The defenders are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
The thing is that Lekkerimäki isn’t really great at everything else. He is average at best when it comes to skating, and while he reads the game well he doesn’t push the envelop in any regard defensively. It is the one-dimensional play that makes it difficult to project his success down the line. In a way he reminds me a bit of Victor Olofsson of the Buffalo Sabres; while his overall game isn’t the best, it may not matter when you can score from anywhere on the ice.
The shot that he possesses is one-of-a-kind, and he can use it effectively whether it’s a slapshot or wrister. If the puck is passed with speed or if it’s dead on his stick, it doesn’t matter, Lekkerimäki will generate such power and force that it will beat the goalie anyway, reminiscent of Cole Caufield’s. Lekkerimäki’s shot cannot be taught; it is a natural gift and he knows exactly what to do any time he is in a shooting position.
His overall game is what brings the perception down. He has trouble when his first read doesn’t work. He competes in the defensive zone, but it does not come natural to him. He has to think about what he’s supposed to be doing at times, which slows down his reactions and adjustments. When you look at the Gold Medal Game of the U18s, you can also see that he cheats a bit for the empty-net goal, it might be that the coaches want to force the defencemen to be aware of an attacker, but it could be something to keep an eye on with regard to his overall defensive play.
In the offensive zone, he has trouble seeing the best solution if his first move doesn’t work. His passing could be better — not the passing ability itself but rather the read, and finding the right passing lane. With a late birthday it might just be that he hasn’t really had time to work on that part of the play just yet.
One thing I have to bring up is that Lekkerimäki has signed a new contract with Djurgården, and publicly stating he wants to be part of the team that will fights to get promoted back to the SHL. The question is if the team that drafts him will be happy with that situation. It could be enticing to bring him over to the AHL and have a more hands-on approach to his development.
Elite Prospects: #18
Hockey Prospect: #8
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #8
NHL Central Scouting: #6 (European skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #11
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #9
When you rely on one skill, you will have to be better than everyone else at it, and Lekkerimäki can claim that he is. His shot is NHL-ready. The question is if he can get the rest of his play up to par in order to make the best of the chance that he will get.
There have been comments in media and by hockey fans that he could be a similar find to Elias Pettersson who shared a lot of the same characteristics in his draft year, but what separates the two Swedish players is their overall hockey IQ. Pettersson was much better in all parts of the ice than Lekkerimäki is at the moment. This should mean that the team that drafts him won’t try and turn Lekkerimäki into a centre even if the puck control and shot are there.
The comparison with Victor Olofsson, and to a lesser degree Alexander Holtz, is a better one. If all works out, there is a big chance that Lekkerimäki will score at a high rate in the NHL down the line. It comes down to his own development and whether his team will play him in an environment that allows him to succeed.