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Photo Credit: @joefinanderssonfoto on Instagram

Jonathan Lekkerimaki arguably has the best shot in the draft: Realistic draft options for the Canucks at 15

As we approach the NHL Entry Draft, we at CanucksArmy want to preview some of the realistic options for the Vancouver Canucks to draft if they end up using their 15th overall pick in the draft.

We will explore 10 players who could be available for the Canucks and will take a look at the upside in each prospect that we preview.

Let’s begin with Swedish winger Jonathan Lekkerimaki.

Size, position, team, and statistics

Lekkerimaki is a 5’11”, right-winger who still has some room to fill out before he gets to the NHL.

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Though a lot of players Lekkerimaki’s age tend to play a bit of centre, he is purely a winger. Lekkerimaki split last season between the Swedish J20 league and the SHL. He played 26 games in each league as a part of the Djurgårdens organization.

As a pure 17-year-old, Lekkerimaki very much impressed talent evaluators at the SHL level. He finished with seven goals in 26 games in Sweden’s top league and added two assists to his production. As expected, he was much more productive in his J20 play as he totalled up 20 goals and 15 assists in his 26 junior games.

On top of what he produced in Sweden, the numbers that explode off the stat sheet are from his play at the U18 World Championships. Lekkerimaki was far and away the points leader at the tournament with 15 points in six games.

Rankings


Rankings provided by Elite Prospects.

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Strengths

The best part of Lekkerimaki’s game is his shot. When it comes to firing the puck, he without a doubt has a top-three toolbelt in this draft. Lekkerimaki has a tremendous release on his wrist shot, he can fire a one-timer that has pace, and he is dangerous in multiple areas on the power play.

When it comes to skating, Lekkerimaki isn’t the fastest skater at full stride but he looks fluid with his movement through the neutral zone and uses his agility to do an excellent job of carrying the puck in the offensive zone. He has a nice touch in the neutral zone and even in the SHL, he shows an ability to have multiple ways of beating defenceman at the blue line. Lekkerimaki shows a lot of skill when he chips a puck around a defenceman or simply sneaks by a defenceman on the boards by using his agility.

Notes from the tape

  • Lekkerimaki shows good defensive support down low. Though he is a winger, he is consistently found in the corners or in the slot with an active stick. He is quick to defend at the point and makes smart passes out of the defensive zone to quickly transition up ice.
  • Lekkerimaki uses his hockey sense to anticipate scoring chances against him in his own end — you can see a scoring chance develop against him but he shows initiative to go to where the puck is ending up instead of where it currently is. He is aggressive in the defensive zone and though at times, it does open up defencemen for point shots but seems to be more rewarding as he adds to covering the high-danger areas in his own end.
  • His shot is electric for a 17-year-old. His wrist shot explodes off the blade and his one-time is consistent but will get even better once he gets more power as he adds muscle in the next couple of years.
  • Really good feet as he skates in the neutral zone. Challenges defencemen during zone entries and sets himself up for a lot of 50/50 battles in corners with a chip and chase style of transitioning from the neutral zone to the offensive zone.
  • Very smart power play contributor. He can play the left half-wall, bumper and moves around the ice to create new passing and shooting lanes. He doesn’t stay in one spot and can use his one-timer from deep on the left half-wall, snap-shot from in tight, as well as taking a step towards the middle of the ice and firing a wrist shot.
  • Lekkerimaki’s confidence grew throughout the SHL season and looked more willing to go to the dirty areas as the season went on. His evolving confidence showed with how much more he was shooting the puck in the second half of his season. Lekkerimaki had 13 shots in his first 13 games but then shot up in his final 13 games, having more than three times as many shots (37) on net in his second half of the year.

Highlights

All seven of Lekkerimaki’s SHL goals:

Grade if Canucks draft at 15: A

Getting arguably the best shot in the draft would be a great addition to the Canucks’ prospect pool. Lekkerimaki is consistently showing up in the top-10 of a lot of prospect rankings for this draft and his performance against his age group at the U18s combined with his scoring prowess in the SHL project him to be a top-six winger in the NHL within the next two-four years.

If Lekkerimaki is able to get stronger and build on his already NHL-level shot, he could be a major piece of an NHL team’s power play.

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The only reason we are not giving this pick an A+ is that Lekkerimaki is a pure winger. He could very easily be the best player available at 15th overall and the Canucks would get a great prospect if they end up landing Lekkerimaki. He is a tremendous prospect and will be fun to follow as he develops in Sweden for the next one or two years.

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