Faber’s Prospect Rankings #4: Jonathan Lekkerimäki still has the skill but now needs to show it in the SHL
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By Faber2 months ago
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When we’re looking at the big four, we are looking at true NHL potential. Each of the next four prospects have a chance to be impactful in the NHL one day and our rankings seem to indicate confidence in the player reaching their potential.
Jonathan Lekkerimäki has potential in spades but his draft plus one season looked like a disaster before he took off like a rocket in the Allsvenskan playoffs.
Now, with a step up in competition as he switches teams to Örebro in the SHL — we will have to see Lekkerimäki rise to the occasion and show why he was rated in many of the major scouting sites’ top 10s prior to the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Vancouver Canucks ultimately spent their 15th overall selection on the 5’11”, 172-pound winger with hopes that he could fill a spot in their top six one day.
Though the returns in year one weren’t great for Lekkerimäki, he still has enough in his game to make us believe that he could manage to score in the NHL one day, but he will have to prove that in this coming year.
Getting a full reset and joining a new organization is a good thing for Lekkerimäki, who suffered through mononucleosis, a concussion and a six-week-long foot injury last year.
Obviously, illness and injuries are going to slow down a player’s development. Mono made building muscle extremely difficult for the 18-year-old, while a concussion slowed down his game prior to the 2023 World Junior Championship. The good news from the injuries last year was that he bounced back from his foot injury and had an immediate impact on his team’s run in the Allsvenskan playoffs.
Lekkerimäki finished his Allsvenskan playoffs with five goals and 10 assists in 15 games. He averaged 17:06 of ice time during the playoff run and held a very impressive 58.6% Corsi as well as controlled 56.5% of on-ice expected goals at even-strength. The version of Lekkerimäki that we saw in the playoffs was very exciting. He went in hard for pucks, was able to create offence at both even-strength and with the man advantage, and did a good job disrupting possessions in his own zone.
We could be looking at a blue-chip prospect if Lekkerimäki can build off of what he did in the most recent playoffs instead of having to work back to get to that level. The jump to the SHL is going to present a new crop of challenges for Lekkerimäki, but we do still see him getting power play time as well as a long look in Örebro’s top-six.
On top of the big jump to the SHL, Lekkerimäki will also be playing in the World Junior Championship on home soil this December as he takes part in his third WJC. This age group is the same group that saw Sweden win the U18s on the back of Lekkerimäki throwing down 15 points in six games.
Pressure is certainly on but that pressure is receiving a little bit of a release as Lekkerimäki will be given a soft landing spot with Örebro in the SHL as well as being able to stay at home for the WJC.
Lekkerimäki will have to show us something this coming year and all the roads are pointing to him being able to have that bounce-back.
Ceiling: A great linemate for Elias Pettersson. We see a world where Lekkerimäki can be a solid linemate for Pettersson. Lekkerimäki has the finishing ability and good hands to fit well with Pettersson. Lekkerimäki thinks the game well and though he didn’t show well during the regular season, the playoffs were another story. If Lekkerimäki can be that type of player, we can see him getting the chance in the Canucks’ top-six by the 2025-26 season.
Floor: SHL scorer. Lekkerimäki will probably score at a decent rate over what we expect to be his next two seasons in the SHL. He’s going to be able to contribute on a power play and should see top-six SHL time this season. The hope is that he is more than he has shown us so far and that the 2022-23 season was a down-year due to all the things that held him back.
Production (and how): Lekkerimäki had three goals and six assists in 29 Allsvenskan regular season games. He then had five goals and 10 assists in 15 playoff games. Most of his offence comes on the power play but his five-on-five scoring was up in the playoffs. We will touch on Lekkerimäki’s power play prowess before closing out but that’s where a lot of his production comes from.
Prediction (for the 2023-24 year): The expectation is for Lekkerimäki to be the top-scoring U20 player in the SHL. He will have to battle with Liam Öhgren, Leo Carlsson, Noah Östlund, and Filip Bystedt. An average season for Lekkerimäki will look like 10 goals and 10 assists. A great season would see him be closer to 20 and 20. Our prediction is 14 goals and seven assists next season.
ETA: With everything that we saw last season, our expectation for an NHL time of arrival is looking more like the 2025-26 season instead of the 2024-25 year. We might see Lekkerimäki go off next year and if he does, then the NHL will be a serious option for the 2024-25 season but we see it more likely being 2025-26. It will depend on if the Canucks can convince Lekkerimäki to play in the AHL.
Lekkerimäki being a first-round pick is going to give him a lot of opportunities. NHL organizations obviously want their first-round picks to be successful but general managers need their first-round picks to be successful.
We’re damn sure that Lekkerimäki will get into NHL games at some point in the next three years. The kid can bring a lot to a power play unit and clearly has the type of shot that can beat set-goaltenders. If Lekkerimäki can get back on track as being one of the best pure scorers in the 2022 draft, we will see him become a Vancouver Canuck sooner rather than later.
It’s clear that there’s a lot of potential in Lekkerimäki but we really need to see him step up this year. His development was hurt by his unfortunate illness and injuries last season but it certainly has not derailed him as a top-tier NHL prospect.
Lekkerimäki will be given all the chances in the world to get back on track in 2023-24 and we believe he has the skill to be able to produce in the SHL next year. There’s a chance he is looked at as the Canucks’ top prospect when we do our rankings at this year’s trade deadline.
We will certainly be watching closely as Lekkerimäki looks to win back some Canucks fans.
Let’s remember that he is still just 18 years old.
There’s still lots of time.
There’s also a lot that we need to see.
We will certainly be following along closely.
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