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Montreal Canadiens Development Camp Notebook: Otto Leskinen looks to take the next step

Thoughts and impressions from the second day.

Shanna Martin

You can be forgiven if you hear the name Otto Leskinen and don’t know that he’s one of the newer defencemen in the Montreal Canadiens organization. The 22-year-old Finn impressed in Wednesday’s scrimmage with his strong positioning and skating, and he will be making his North American professional debut this season.

Leskinen was at last year’s development camp as a tryout before returning to Finland and playing the rest of the season with KalPa in Liiga. Then, when it came time to sign a contract and the Canadiens called, his familiarity with the organization and the city helped.

He says he likes the city, and of course the number of players from his home country helps.

“It’s much easier to come here when there are a lot of Finnish guys,” Leskinen said. Jesse Ylönen is the only other Finnish player at Development camp, but he was teammates in KalPa with Joni Ikonen and will be attending main camp with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and restricted free agents Joel Armia and Artturi Lehkonen.

Leskinen is playing on the right side at development camp, in part because of the lack of right-handed defencemen in camp and healthy. That’s nothing new to him, though. He spent most of last season in Liiga playing the right side despite being a left-handed shot and says that he’s just as comfortable on either side.

He was second among KalPa defenders in average ice time per game, at over 21 minutes and that’s an asset as he moves to the North American pro game. He has three and a half seasons in Finland’s top league and says that experience is significant.

“It’s going to help,” he said.

After this camp he will go back to Finland for the rest of the summer and take what he learned he needs to work on there before returning in September.

Quick Hits

  • Gianni Fairbrother is not known for his offence, but he scored three goals over the two games and showed off his skating and his shooting.
  • Jack Gorniak didn’t have the season he would have wanted last year at Wisconsin, but has been really good through two days. He is showing purpose and speed offensively.
  • After missing Wednesday’s game, Raphael Harvey-Pinard played on Thursday, and I was impressed by his overall speed and ability.
  • The team confirmed that Cam Hillis, Jacob Olofsson, Joël Teasdale, and Cale Fleury are injured. Hillis, Olofsson, and Teasdale took part in on-ice drills but were held out of the scrimmages for precautionary reasons.

The final scrimmage is Friday at 9:30 a.m.