Artturi Lehkonen has been a player who so far in his career has shown flashes that he can be an effective producer but has yet to be able to do so consistently. Will that change in 2019-20?
Claude Julien gave Lehkonen plenty of ice time to start the season. He did little with it. After scoring in the season opener, he only scored once more in the next 24 games despite spending a lot of time in the top six. The Habs were hoping his production late in the previous season (seven goals in 15 games to finish off the year) would carry over but clearly, that didn’t happen.
As a result, Lehkonen found himself frequently on the third line before too long, often alongside fellow Finn Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the duo creating an intriguing mix of offensive potential and defensive abilities. Unfortunately, the offensive potential didn’t materialize into production as Lehkonen had a 29-game stretch without a goal (and only four assists) after a few strong weeks before that.
The good news for the Habs (and Lehkonen) is that he once again was a little better down the stretch. With Montreal still pushing for a spot in the playoffs, the winger stepped up with seven points in his final 15 games to finish his year on at least a more respectable note while setting a new career mark in points.
While it matters little from a fantasy perspective, it’s at least worth noting that Lehkonen had the second-highest shorthanded ATOI among Montreal forwards. Even when he wasn’t producing offensively (which was the case quite a bit), his defensive performance was good enough to secure him a spot in the lineup on a nightly basis. That doesn’t help in pool play but it still makes him an important piece for this team.
Season Stats: 82 GP, 11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points, +10 rating, 32 PIMS, 0 PPG, 4 GWG, 176 shots, 15:33 ATOI, 53.5 CF%
3 Year Averages
(Lehkonen has only played in three NHL seasons.)
As things stand, the best odds would probably be for him resuming his role on the third line alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi. While Montreal’s top pick in 2018 will certainly be counted on to be more than a third-liner in the not-too-distant future, it seems likely that they’ll start him there and having someone he’s comfortable playing with in Lehkonen wouldn’t hurt.
The fact that Lehkonen can play both wings also makes him a candidate to take Andrew Shaw’s spot alongside Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi. He’d bring a needed defensive presence to that line although he lacks the gritty element to his game that made Shaw a pretty good fit with that group. If he does get a look with those two though, his offensive numbers should go up accordingly.
In terms of special teams time, not much should change. Even if he was moved up with Drouin and Domi at five-on-five, I don’t expect that there would be much of a jump in power play time. Players like Kotkaniemi, Jordan Weal, and even Joel Armia (for the right-shot element) are all still ahead of Lehkonen in the pecking order. On the other hand, he still should be on Montreal’s top penalty kill unit.
After a strong rookie season, some people classified Lehkonen as a sleeper. After a so-so sophomore campaign, he was still classified as a sleeper. After another comparable year, there’s certainly a temptation to call him a potential sleeper yet again. Don’t.
While there is still room for some offensive improvement, he’s probably not going to turn around and magically become a 45-point player that looks like a legitimate top-six forward. He has been consistently inconsistent when it comes to his offensive production in his first three years and at some point, that should simply become the expectation.
In 12-team leagues, he’s a waiver wire player. For 16-team pools, he’s a bubble player depending on the scoring settings while in 20-team leagues, Lehkonen would be a decent pick in the later rounds. For pools that have shots as a scoring category, he’s worth a boost as he has shown a penchant for being willing to shoot from anywhere and has averaged 3.89 shot attempts per game in his career. Montreal’s ridiculous classification as to what constitutes a hit at the Bell Centre gave enough of a boost to his hit total to the point where an outsider could suggest he’s a budding power forward as crazy a notion as that seems. Again, for leagues that have that stat, he’s worth bumping up a few spots in the rankings as a result.