Photo credit:Djurgårdens -- Jay Foster Photography
Canucks prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki has been very good in the playoffs since his return from a foot injury
By Faber10 months ago
Jonathan Lekkerimäki struggled in his first Allsvenskan season but has been electric since he joined his team for the Allsvenskan playoffs after a foot injury kept him out of the lineup for six weeks.
The 18-year-old first-round pick has three goals through five playoff games as Djurgården battles in the semifinals of the Allsvenskan playoffs.
We’ve gone back on the tape for clips, tracked all his games from this season, and compared the strong play of late to the weak play during the season.
Let’s first start with the three playoff goals and how they were scored.
Let’s break down the three goals and give some positive takeaways.
I know there’s some shaky defence on the first two goals but we can just put that to the side for now. Let’s give Lekkerimäki some praise for now, he’s been receiving enough criticism this season.
In the first goal, we like the movement in the bumper position. We’ve seen Lekkerimäki play most of his power play time at the left half-wall position but in this clip, he is used in the bumper and can be seen moving to soft ice where he can get his shot off. Just after the second circle indicator, he makes a cut toward the net and we’ve been banging the drum for him to make these kinds of moves more often. There ends up being a couple of quick passes and then Lekkerimäki gets some space due to a sloppy penalty kill collapse, and he buries the goal.
The second goal begins with a forecheck from Lekkerimäki that rushes the defenceman into making a play up the boards that is picked off by Lekkerimäki’s teammate. There’s a bit of a scramble and then the puck ultimately lands on the stick of Lekkerimäki, who rips a wrist shot with great accuracy into the back of the net. There may not be a lot on this play to get excited about but it is a goal where Lekkerimäki shows off his quick release and accuracy.
It’s the third goal that really gets us excited because it’s an example of Lekkerimäki playing with some confidence. He is demanding the puck for a skate up the ice and he picks up the puck in his own zone, makes a quick pass and then drives an open lane in the neutral zone with pace. He makes a quick little deke from his forehand and that freezes the defenceman. This move gives Lekkerimäki just enough space to still attack the centre of the ice but also keeps enough away from the defender to get a clean shot off. Again, he shows off his quick release and accuracy and beats the goalie over the glove side.
There’s a mix of confidence, willingness to go to the high-danger areas, and the showcase of his high-level shot in these three goals.
We noted that he has been much more willing to go to the net over these playoff games and it shows in the shot chart. Throughout the season, a lot of his shots came from outside of the faceoff circles, he was getting shots toward the net but he was not able to consistently beat goaltenders from distance.
Through his five playoff games, Lekkerimäki has dropped his average shot distance down and is getting into the high-danger areas for his shots.
By the numbers
With his strong play has come strong possession numbers.
There’s been a serious uptick in his Corsi and control of expected goals. It’s a small sample size but it’s also the best five-game stretch we have seen from Lekkerimäki all season long.
He’s seen his Corsi run from 52.5% up to 64.6% while his control of expected goals has risen from 50.2% to 66.1%.
These are significant boosts to his possession numbers and it would be incredible if he kept these types of numbers going through the playoffs. Lekkerimäki is being used in a first-line role and has been on the ice for five goals scored and only two against at even-strength through the five playoff games.
He is averaging 4.5 zone entries a game while averaging three zone exits per game.
We clipped all of his 13 passes from his best playoff game so far. Here’s a quick indication of how he is continuing to drive play in the right direction and extend possessions with good passes. You can also see him have a good aggressive stick in passing lanes in a few of the clips. He has certainly been much more engaged in these playoff games.
Lekkerimäki’s Allsvenskan team currently trails 2-1 in their semifinal playoff series. They are set to play on Saturday and Monday and we will continue to follow along with what Lekkerimäki is able to do in this playoff environment.
Though the season was derailed due to injuries and illnesses, Lekkerimäki still has a chance to salvage his confidence with a strong performance in the playoffs. There’s a chance he is one of the offensive leaders as Djurgården attempts to win these Allsvenskan playoffs and make a push to get back into the SHL.
Overall, we’ve been very impressed with Lekkerimäki through these playoffs, this is the best he’s looked since his excellent play at the U18s and he is beginning to show some confidence with the puck. Let’s hope this upward trend continues — the kid is sure due for some good bounces after the year he’s had.
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