Photo credit:Tre Kronor on Twitter
Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki had mono in March and was a late decision to go to the World Juniors
1 year ago
After Sweden secured bronze and Canada took home the gold on home soil, the dust is beginning to settle on a rather peculiar World Junior Championship.
After the tournament was postponed back in December due to COVID-19, things kicked off on August 9th and concluded with an eventful and drama-filled gold medal game between Canada and Finland on Sunday evening in Edmonton.
But for Canucks prospects, things looked a little bit different.
Jacob Truscott’s USA squad was upset by Czechia in the quarterfinals. Joni Jurmo found himself on the losing side in the final, and Jonathan Lekkerimäki earned a bronze medal after an underwhelming tournament from a personal standpoint.
There’s not much reason to panic about Lekkerimaki’s play, however, if not for the mere fact that he just turned 18 years old and that this was his first time at the tournament.
Criticisms about Lekkerimäki’s inability to drive play at the tournament are valid, as the Canucks’ 2022 first round pick certainly looked like a winger who needs exceptional teammates on his line to set him up in order to thrive.
What we’re learning now, however, is that it was even more complicated than we thought for Lekkerimäki.
According to Rick Dhaliwal, Lekkerimäki was sick with mononucleosis earlier this year and his decision to play in this year’s tournament was a late one.
Lekkerimaki was sick with mono in late February to early March, and for anyone that’s come down with mono in their life, you’ll know that the effect it has on your body can last for months after you’ve recovered.
Dhaliwal shared his text exchange with Sweden’s coach, Tomas Monten, regarding Lekkerimäki’s play at this year’s World Juniors.
“He was only okay. He is skilled and had some good looks on our PP. And had some assists but to be a force and a producer in 5-5 vs top players he has a bit of ground to cover. Don’t think his fall with illness (mono) and all the draft trips helped boost him ether. He is still a very young prospect who will have learned a lot coming back in December. Could be one of the studs then. I liked working with Jonathan.”
The end of Monten’s text to Dhaliwal is really the main thing to focus on — Lekkerimäki is young and has plenty of developing to do still. Lekkerimäki will also have a greater role with Sweden at the 2023 World Junior Championship, which is set to take place in Halifax and Moncton in late December and early January.
We’ll have a full recap of Joni Jurmo, Jacob Truscott, and Lekkerimäki’s play at this year’s tournament dropping in the coming days.
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