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Canucks Prospect Rewind: Jonathan Lekkerimäki found his scoring touch in the playoffs after a rollercoaster year

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Photo credit:James Foster / Jay Foster Photography
Faber
By Faber
1 year ago
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Jonathan Lekkerimäki’s draft-plus-one season was a rollercoaster ride fit for Universal Studios.
The lows were very low, the highs were very high and we were thrown through some loops during the coverage of the 18-year-old, 2022 first-round pick.
There were multiple multi-week injuries suffered by Lekkerimäki this past season. He hurt his foot and missed six weeks, had a concussion right before the World Junior Championships and also had mono back in March. The kid had an uphill battle through the year and when you look back at his year as a whole, it’s not the worst draft-plus-one season we’ve seen but without what Lekkerimäki did in the playoffs, this past year would have been a scratch and throw away type of season.
Lekkerimäki played in the second-best league in Sweden this past season. The Allsvenskan has a lot of talented teams but is a relegation league from the SHL. Lekkerimäki struggled in the regular season, scoring just three goals and adding six assists in 29 regular season games. He was given ample time on the power play and saw a lot of time on the top line. Through all the opportunities, Lekkerimäki couldn’t find consistent production with Djurgården in the Allsvenskan. He was in a comfortable position with his parents being close and playing with a pair of young players who he develops with through junior hockey.
The playoffs were where Lekkerimäki took off and finally showed Canucks fans why he was selected 15th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
It felt like we were watching a completely different player in the playoffs. Lekkerimäki had confidence, and with that confidence, he was able to showcase his skill. After a year filled with setbacks, this was the first sign of progression that we saw in the 2022-23 hockey year. Lekkerimäki handled the puck well on the power play, took a lot of shots and ended up finishing the playoffs with 15 points in as many games.
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This is a much better version of Jonathan Lekkerimäki. He&#39;s confident again. <a href=”https://t.co/rfckJl3U4z”>pic.twitter.com/rfckJl3U4z</a></p>&mdash; 𝗖𝗵𝗿𝗶𝘀 Faber 🔥🎙 (@ChrisFaber39) <a href=”https://twitter.com/ChrisFaber39/status/1652049312841596928?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>April 28, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>
When Lekkerimäki is on his game, he’s a strong puck possessor who thrives with the man advantage and did look like a much more engaged defender as the year went on. For a high portion of the season, we had many worries about Lekkerimäki floating too much in the defensive zone. He was consistently doing fly-bys and wasn’t willing to engage in the corners or fight for ice around the net. This was extremely concerning and warranted the worries we saw in the comments section. It’s not like he has become a militant forechecker but he did enough well in the playoffs to at least quiet some of the worrying.
Even with Lekkerimäki having a strong playoff run, Djurgården was unable to win the Allsvenskan and achieve promotion to the SHL. Lekkerimäki ended up signing his entry-level contract with the Canucks and then was loaned to Örebro in the SHL last month.
Now, Lekkerimäki will join fellow Canucks prospect and current world junior teammate Elias Pettersson (D-Petey) in the SHL and the hope is that he can find the scoring touch that evaded him during the regular season but was then found in playoff action — the time where it matters most.
As we look ahead to the 2023-24 hockey year, it’s a massive one for Lekkerimäki.
Lekkerimäki will be one of the returning players to Sweden’s world junior team and Sweden is hosting the 2024 World Junior Championships. At this most recent world juniors, Lekkerimäki scored one goal and added three assists in seven games. He began the tournament in the top six and was relegated to an extra forward as the tournament went on. There should be around 11 returning players for Sweden and Lekkerimäki will be looked at as one of the best talents that Sweden has on their roster for the 2024 WJC.
As for next season, we mentioned that Lekkerimäki will be heading up to the SHL with Örebro. This will not be Lekkerimäki’s first run at the SHL, he played in 26 SHL games during the 2021-22 season and ended up scoring seven goals in those 26 games.
We expect to see Lekkerimäki as a top-six forward for Örebro this season. He should be getting a lot of power play time and Örebro has some exciting young players such as Leo Carlsson, D-Petey, and Milton Oscarson. Lekkerimäki needs to have a strong season next season after what he did this past year. The good news is that he finished off the year with a strong playoff and there has to be some excitement from the teenager as he makes the jump back into the SHL.
Prediction for the 2023-24 season
47 games played, 12 goals, and 13 assists in SHL.
Eight games played, four goals, and four assists at WJC.
We also predict that he will not be coming over to North America after next season. We imagine that he will be back in the SHL for the 2024-25 season.

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