UPDATE: The Montreal Canadiens have confirmed the report that Artturi Lehkonen has signed an entry-level contract. You will find the official press release here: ROSTER UPDATE | Canadiens Sign Forward Artturi Lehkonen to Three-Year Deal
HALIFAX, NS. — According to a report from Tomas Ros from Sportbladet, Artturi Lehkonen has signed an entry level contract with the Montreal Canadiens. The report in the Swedish newspaper goes on to claim that the deal includes a clause allowing Lehkonen to rejoin Frolunda of the SHL if he is unable to crack the Canadiens lineup.
The Canadiens have not confirmed the report. There is no word from the Lehkonen camp either.
Lehkonen is an excellent skater who takes an extra step to get to top speed, but is capable of making that separation he needs using his edges. He can stick handle in a phone booth and generates offence in many ways. The winger is able to make passes or quickly unleash his highly accurate shot while moving at top speed.
Lehkonen also wins more than his share of puck battles along the boards. He may be undersized and can be outmuscled at times yet has the ability to often win puck battles. He displays a determination and work ethic that rivals our resident crease crasher, Brendan Gallagher.
What fans should understand is that Lehkonen’s arrival does not mean that a top-six winger has been added. Well, not yet anyhow. While Lehkonen is highly talented, determined, and he did take a massive leap in his development this past season, fans need to temper their expectations of the young slightly undersized winger.
Lehkonen broke Daniel Alfresson’s Frolunda playoff points record en route to the SHL Championship this season. However, stepping in from Frolunda of the SHL to the NHL is still a large leap, and it will take him some time to adjust to the speed and North American style and ice surface.
What does this mean for the Canadiens?
There looks to be a serious competition for the youth coming into camp this September. Lehkonen will join Charles Hudon, Daniel Carr, Sven Andrighetto and Stefan Matteau in competing for third line roles as wingers for Lars Eller. There is also a possibility players such as Mike McCarron or Nikita Scherbak take a roster spot from a player who is seemingly more NHL ready or an already established player. If that scenario happens, it would provide a happy, yet difficult, decision making process for Marc Bergevin coming out of training camp.
But one would assume that due to the out clause in Lehkonen’s contract, he would have more of an advantage to win any roster spot considered up for grabs. Each player brings a different element. Andrighetto has speed to burn, and Matteau is a potential power forward but is progressing slowly.
However, a third line of Lehkonen, Eller and Carr could be a very dangerous line. All three are capable puck pursuers who love to play a possession game, can make an accurate pass, can play the cycle and are highly adept at getting to and playing in the high risk areas of the offensive zone. They are also all defensively sound and can play the 200-foot game that Michel Therrien, and every coach, wants out of their players.
It also means that with the amount of guaranteed NHL contracts already in the lineup, we should likely see some movement this summer. This would give Bergevin more depth to use to trade up in the draft or for proven top six help. It provides Bergevin many options to add the final pieces to what should be a very dangerous team next season if the needed scoring is added and if everyone (Carey Price) remains healthy.
If you missed our exclusive interview with Artturi Lehkonen earlier this year, you can find it here: At Scandinavium with Habs Prospect Artturi Lehkonen [AUDIO]